Howard Week

December 05, 2004

West Friendship fire station gets EMTs from county

The nationwide squeeze for paramedics has hit home in West Friendship, where the town's volunteer Fire Department recently requested that Howard County provide a full-time position to ensure around-the-clock coverage at the station.

Chief Joseph A. Herr of Howard's Fire and Rescue Services said the department was responding to a request from the station because it has been unable to get its own paramedics "on a consistent basis."

But Herr said that whenever the station needed a paramedic in the past, it received one from the department.

The department began a six-month trial Nov. 22 that temporarily places a department paramedic at the station every day and night, Herr said.

The trial period will cost about $200,000, mainly for salaries, and the department likely will request funding for the position in next year's budget, Herr said.

Inflation adjustment boosts county executive's salary

There will be no pay raise for Howard County Council members for at least two years, but County Executive James N. Robey's salary rose 2.2 percent Wednesday - his second increase this term.

Robey's pay is $131,966, nearly $7,000 a year more than the $125,000 starting executive salary the council approved before the last local election, thanks to an automatic inflation adjustment the members included.

In his last term, Robey's executive pay was $98,500 - lower than his salary as police chief in 1997. Nearly 20 county employees earned more.

The council members' pay remains unchanged since 1998 at $33,800 - next to the lowest in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Salaries, workload, equity top issues for school talks

Salaries, workload and equity among school employees are top issues the Howard County Education Association will bring to the bargaining table when contract negotiations for teachers and support staff begin this winter.

Three-year contracts for both groups expire June 30 - one representing about 4,000 certified teachers, guidance counselors and psychologists; the other representing 1,600 employees, mostly instructional assistants.

In May, the association sent a form to its members seeking input for the negotiations.

For the teachers, their biggest concerns are workload and sufficient planning time, said Joe Staub, president of the association.

Open enrollment pondered for new county high school

New boundary lines have been drawn for Howard County's high school districts, but one unresolved issue faces the school board: whether to allow open enrollment at Marriott's Ridge High when it opens next fall.

The school board could not agree on the issue last month when it voted on new district lines. Board members will reconsider the option at their Thursday meeting.

The county's 12th high school, in Marriottsville, is expected to open with about 560 freshmen and sophomores. But some parents of future Marriott's Ridge students want to see a first-year enrollment that is closer to 700, more than half of the 1,332 available seats.

The smaller the population, the fewer choices students will have for clubs and electives such as band and choir, these parents have argued at public hearings.

Homicides at 5-year low, crime statistics show

Homicides and property crimes in Howard County have hit their lowest levels in five years, but juvenile violent-crime arrests have continued to climb, according to police statistics released last week.

The county has had one homicide since Jan. 1, compared with six for the same period last year, according to statistics for the first nine months of the year. Fewer property crimes occurred in all categories - burglary, theft and stolen automobiles - which led to an overall decline of 2.3 percent through September.

Arrests of juveniles in violent crimes - which include aggravated assault, robbery, rape and homicide - spiked to 63 for the first nine months of this year, compared with 36 arrests for the same period last year.

Ellicott City man admits political-sign vandalism

During this fall's polarized presidential election season, Howard County police staked out a 4-foot-by-8-foot Bush-Cheney sign on U.S. 40 after similar placards had been vandalized. Within an hour, they arrested an Ellicott City man for striking down the sign and cutting holes in it.

Cory Robert Cooke, 33, who told police he was tired of seeing the huge sign, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Howard District Court to malicious destruction of property valued at less than $500. His arrest, one of three in Howard for defacing political signs, came during a rash of such incidents in the county before last month's election.

Cooke apologized and said, "I don't want to have this as a representation of myself" to his children or other children.

Judge Neil Edward Axel sentenced Cooke to 30 days, suspending all but the two days he had served after his arrest, as well as a year of unsupervised probation. Cooke also was ordered to perform 32 hours of community service. The state wanted a sentence of 60 days, suspending all but three weekends.

In the other alleged sign-vandalism incident, Peter Lizon and his wife, Stephanie Louise Lizon, of Randallstown were arrested Oct. 1, accused of using a bayonet to cut the centers out of two Bush-Cheney signs on U.S. 40, near Ridge Road in Ellicott City.

Stephanie Lizon, 35, is scheduled for trial Dec. 16 in District Court. Peter Lizon, 30, faces weapons charges and is scheduled for trial Jan. 27.

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