Harford Week

August 08, 2004

Bel Air twirlers take first place in national contest

Bel Air is home to some of the nation's best baton twirlers.

The Applause of Bel Air Twirling Corps' Juvenile Large Dance Team won first place last month at the National Baton Championships, otherwise referred to as the "World Series of Baton Twirling."

Michelle Cvach, Rachel Hogan, Caroline King, Casey King, Maria Kopalchick, Laural Locke, Rachel Occhionero, Caitlin Ortolani, Pooja Rastogi and Rebecca Skrocki participated on the winning team.

"We didn't know what to think when we found out we won," said Caroline King, adding that the coaches asked the girls to guess how they placed the morning the scores were announced.

"We thought we scored 10th place, then ninth, then eighth," she said. "Then we thought we didn't even place. We jumped up and down when we found out."

Six other girls from Applause of Bel Air participated in the event: Jennifer Anderson, Renee Angelo, Andrea Ortolani, Meghan Ortolani, Janie Sietz and Andrea Stare.

In addition to the first place prize, the twirling corps received awards -- third place in the Tiny Tots Small Twirl, third place in Senior Small Twirl, fifth place in the Primary Half-time Show Twirl, fifth place in the junior large dance team and juvenile small dance team divisions.

The competition was held at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and included twirlers and teams from the Unites States, Europe and Japan.

The winners will receive medals and trophies at a celebration this month.

Moratorium proposed on building gas stations

Two bills proposing a six-month moratorium on the construction of gasoline stations in Harford County were introduced Tuesday at a meeting of the County Council.

The bills are in response to suspicions that an Upper Crossroads Exxon station is responsible for contaminating well water at 127 homes with methyl tertiary butyl ether, a noxious gasoline additive commonly called MTBE. Upper Crossroads is the intersection of Fallston Road (Route 152) and Baldwin Mill Road (Route 165).

The bills were introduced by council members Robert G. Cassilly and Veronica "Roni" L. Chenowith.

"Our bill is broader," Councilman Robert G. Cassilly said, comparing the proposal he put forward with the support of Councilwoman Cecelia M. Stepp, and the bill presented by Chenowith. "We are looking at the broader issue of protecting the Harford County water supply from MTBE or whatever the next chemical spill might be," Cassilly said.

Chenowith, who represents Fallston, said her bill was drafted first and that she began working on it early last month. Chenowith said she is hopeful that the introduction of two bills will not hinder getting legislation passed.

"We need to work together to solve an issue that affects the health, welfare and protection of all citizens in the county," Chenowith said.

A public hearing on the bills is scheduled Sept. 7.

Chenowith said her bill would stop the permit process and construction of service stations until legislation could be drafted that would give the county's Department of Planning and Zoning authority to more severely restrict stations to prevent gasoline leaks.

Cassilly said Harford has lagged behind other area counties and Baltimore in protecting the water supply. In addition to a construction moratorium, his bill would protect groundwater and streams such as Winters Run, which supplies water to Bel Air residents.

He said the backup plan is to draw water from the Susquehanna River. "That's not only expensive, but it's the drainage or the runoff of water from factories, cities and farms from Pennsylvania to New York. That is not a very desirable source of drinking water."

Both bills would allow the council to shorten or extend the moratorium. Both are emergency bills, meaning they would become effective immediately rather than after the usual 60 days.

MTBE contamination awakens community

The Cross Country Estates Community Association existed before the fuel additive MTBE was found in wells around the Fallston area. But just barely.

The group had not met in 10 years and had stopped collecting its $10-a-year membership fee. Then, word spread that possible carcinogens had popped up in Fallston-area wells, and neighbors suddenly saw a need to be more than a collection of stray voices.

So last month they reactivated the association, which represents a pocket of 28 homes near an Exxon service station suspected of being a source ofmethyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, contamination.

The group has held several forums, helped develop a Web site about MTBE and begun forging ties with other neighborhood associations in Fallston. "We realized our most potent vehicle was enjoining the entire community," said Gene Ratych, who is leading the association's battle on MTBE. "Rather than enter a period of panic disarray, we are moving toward a direction of organization and power."

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