State Digest

STATE DIGEST

March 16, 2006

Solomons Island fire burns 2 restaurants

A three-alarm fire fanned by high winds burned two restaurants on Solomons Island in Southern Maryland yesterday, drawing firefighters from four counties.

The Lighthouse Inn restaurant across from Solomons Pier "collapsed to the ground" and the adjacent Bowen's Inn restaurant was "heavily damaged," said Calvert County public safety director Robert Hampshire.

The restaurants also have apartments that were evacuated. No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire and the extent of the damage are not yet known, Hampshire said.

About 80 to 100 firefighters from Calvert, St. Mary's, Anne Arundel and Charles counties responded to the blaze, which began about 12:30 p.m. As winds of 20 mph to 30 mph whipped the flames, firefighters went into a "defense mode" to contain the fire, Hampshire said. Grass near the Tiki Bar caught fire from embers, destroying an older 30-foot boat docked landside.

By midafternoon, the fire was under control, Hampshire said. It was the second three-alarm fire in the past week in Calvert County. On Friday, a brush fire in the Prince Frederick area burned 13 acres and a barn.

GREG BARRETT

Annapolis: General Assembly

Franchot asks for Ehrlich's help to broadcast Nationals games

Del. Peter Franchot, a frequent thorn in the side of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., asked yesterday that the governor intervene in Comcast's decision not to broadcast Washington Nationals games, a politically barbed suggestion in light of recent news reports about first lady Kendel S. Ehrlich's $55,000-a-year part-time job with the cable company.

"Most Nats fans in Maryland will be unable to enjoy one of the most timeless joys of summer - the opportunity to end a long day by relaxing in one's favorite chair, with their beverage of choice, and rooting for their hometown team," Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat and candidate for comptroller, said in a letter to Ehrlich. "It is one provided as a matter of routine to fans in every other Major League Baseball city, yet Comcast has no qualms with denying it to a fan base that already suffered through more than three decades without baseball in Washington."

Kendel Ehrlich has worked as a consultant or part-time employee of Comcast since 1997, when her husband was in Congress. She and the governor have said her job poses no conflict of interest for him.

ANDREW A. GREEN

Garrett County: Oakland

Commissioners OK program providing free college tuition

The Garrett County commissioners have approved a program to allow county high school graduates to attend Garrett College tuition-free for two years.

The commissioners officially approved the Commissioners Scholarship Program on Tuesday. "It's an economic development tool, not a social program," said Jim Hinebaugh, the county director of economic development.

The program "views infrastructure as a bigger arena than roads, bricks and mortar," said Garrett College President Steve Herman. "It recognizes that human beings are part of that infrastructure."

Beginning next semester, 2006 graduates of the county's Northern and Southern high schools will be able to attend the college without paying tuition if they meet certain criteria, such as maintaining a 2.0 grade point average and enrolling on a full-time basis. To be eligible, students also will have to apply for other grants and scholarships.

The county has budgeted approximately $270,000 for the program in fiscal 2007, Hinebaugh said. The budget was based on 60 percent of graduates planning to attend college, with 75 percent of that number attending Garrett College. Currently, Southern High School has 177 seniors and Northern High has 126 seniors.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Washington Co.: Hagerstown

School board criticized for lack of teen pregnancy education

Washington County's health officer is criticizing school board officials for failing to cooperate in efforts to lower the county's teen pregnancy rate.

"Our relationship with the school board has been difficult, to say the least," County Health Officer William Christoffel told school board members.

In 2004, 206 teens between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth, up from the 185 in 2003.

Christoffel said county health officials asked to have two or three discussions with the school system about teen pregnancy, leading to little discussion. A presentation to ninth-grade students originally planned for November was only recently scheduled, he said. And a request by a Washington County Teen Pregnancy Task Force member to sit in on a school system curriculum meeting was refused by school officials who said it was private, Christoffel said.

School Board member W. Edward Forrest said at Tuesday's meeting that teen pregnancy is a community issue as well as a school system issue. "While I think the Board of Education has a role in addressing this issue, this is a community problem," Forrest said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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