News from around the Baltimore region

August 24, 2005


Odor leads to evacuation of State House workers

A fuel leak forced the evacuation of at least 30 workers from the State House yesterday morning, but state and Annapolis fire officials reopened the building within a half-hour after ruling out the possibility of an explosion.

Workers with the state Department of General Services detected a gas odor in the basement and called Annapolis fire crews to the scene before 8:45 a.m.

Police cordoned off street access to the State House. The Annapolis Fire Department dispatched a hazardous-materials team, along with 25 other firefighters, city fire Capt. Joseph F. Martin III said.

The State House was mostly occupied by support staff for legislators and the governor. Several people said that General Services police went to each office to ask occupants to leave, adding that the evacuation was calm and orderly.

Richard "Doug" Jones, superintendent of Annapolis buildings and grounds, said he thought the odor emanated from a fuel leak in a generator. Officials determined that the smell came from diesel fuel, not natural gas, and were trying to find the source of the leak.

- Phillip McGowan and Heather A. Dinich


Annapolis man gets 13 1/2 years for distributing cocaine

A U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore sentenced an Annapolis man to 13 1/2 years in prison yesterday after he had pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

According to a statement of facts agreed to by Donnell Edmonds, 32, he and Deandre Myers, Keith Brown and others distributed large quantities of cocaine to public housing projects in the Annapolis area from November 2001 until January 2004.

Edmonds made at least five trips to pick up cocaine in New York City in early 2002 through 2003.

A drug task force investigation showed, prosecutors said, that Edmonds brought powdered cocaine into Maryland from New York and distributed crack cocaine in Annapolis from 2002 to 2004. Brown and Myers have each pleaded guilty to drug charges; their sentencing dates have not been set.

- Matthew Dolan


Left turns from Route 97 onto Nursery Road to be restricted

To improve safety along Route 97 (Malcolm Drive), the State Highway Administration will restrict left turns at Nursery Road in Westminster, beginning tomorrow.

Left turns will be prohibited from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Left turns will be permitted at all other times and on weekends. Motorists will have access to the Crossroads Square Shopping Center from the main entrance along eastbound Route 140.

No Left Turn signs will be posted in the median along southbound Route 97 before the entrance to the shopping mall and overhead next to the traffic signals. Information: 301-624-8100 or toll free, 800-635-5119.


Courthouse staff to talk about work conditions

Courthouse employees are expected to testify tonight at a City Council committee meeting that working conditions are inadequate and dangerous at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse and Courthouse East buildings on Calvert Street, which together house the city's Circuit Court operations.

And the employees have new evidence: The Mitchell Courthouse had no water for several hours yesterday afternoon. Administrative Judge Marcella A. Holland said the water was turned off because maintenance workers wanted to replace a pipe that was in danger of bursting.

Jurors, judges and many courthouse employees were allowed to leave by 4 p.m. - about an hour after water was turned off - but some still grumbled about being asked to work in a building with no working toilet facilities.

An e-mail message sent in the afternoon warned of the coming water stoppage. It encouraged employees to "please govern yourselves accordingly." Holland said that Mitchell Courthouse employees who weren't dismissed early were welcome to use the restrooms across the street, at Courthouse East. Holland said water should back to normal today.

Employees at the aging buildings have long complained about working conditions, from foul smells wafting through the hallways to black soot spewing from vents. Employees said at a rally in June that the buildings have caused skin rashes, eye, ear and sinus infections and asthma.

- Julie Bykowicz


Activists crash meeting of lead-paint task force

Members of a community advocacy group crashed a preliminary meeting yesterday of a lead-paint task force that they said would delay action on a problem affecting thousands of Baltimore children.

About 20 members of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, were threatened with arrest if they refused to leave a City Hall foyer. A few minutes later, after leaving the building, they were allowed to attend the meeting.

"Task forces are set up when you want to kill an issue," said ACORN organizer Mitch Klein. "We've been through a million meetings on lead. We don't need any more meetings. What we need is some action."

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