Week In Review

March 26, 2006

Agencies to study Interstate 95 issues

Two state transportation agencies have agreed to study traffic issues along Interstate 95 between Harford and Cecil counties, which leaders hope is the first step toward eliminating a $5 toll that some say hinders economic development.

Officials from the Maryland Transportation Authority and the State Highway Administration will join a task force comprised of politicians, state officials and business leaders that will "take a fresh look at ways to break down the barriers between the two counties caused by tolls on the Hatem and Tydings" bridges, according to a news release.

Cecil is expected to help accommodate the thousands of jobs - and maybe dozens of companies - projected to come to the area as a result of the U.S. military base realignment and closure plan that will transfer some operations to Aberdeen Proving Ground.

But Cecil officials say the Perryville toll plaza - on I-95 just past the Tydings Bridge over the Susquehanna River - is a financial and psychological barrier between the county and the rest of Maryland. The nearby Hatem Bridge on U.S. 40 is scheduled for repair next year.

"We're delighted that the transportation authority recognizes changes in the toll road are imperative to the growth of the Cecil County economy," said Vernon Thompson, economic development director for Cecil County.

Democratic Dels. Mary-Dulany James and David D. Rudolph and Republican Del. Sheryl L. Davis-Kohl, who helped negotiate the study, were lead sponsors of a bill this year to extend use of the discounted Hatem Bridge decals to the Tydings Bridge.

Friday, March 24

Maryland section, Page 3B

Artist, teacher Hopkins dies at 75

James H. Hopkins, an artist who painted Harford County landscapes and who had taught English and drama, died of cancer March 19 at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Delta, Pa., resident was 75.

A descendant of the extended family of merchant-philanthropist Johns Hopkins, he taught for many years at Harford Community College, where he helped establish its theater program and summer opera festival.

Mr. Hopkins, who continued to paint and sketch during his final days in the hospice, was the subject of a profile published in the Harford County section of The Sun on Feb. 26.

"Art is not just a hobby for me to do - it is what gives my life meaning," Mr. Hopkins said at the time. "I feel fulfilled and complete when I paint. Life is meant to be lived, and if I can't do my God-given talent, I may as well hang up my track shoes."

Family members said Mr. Hopkins completed a series of self-portraits last week.

Born in Bel Air, he was a 1948 graduate of Bel Air High School and earned a degree at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. After serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, Mr. Hopkins earned a master's degree from the Yale University School of Drama in 1960.

In the early 1960s, Mr. Hopkins became a professor of English and drama at Harford Community College, where he co-founded the Harford Opera Theater and the Susquehanna Festival Theater.

After 21 years of teaching and directing, Mr. Hopkins retired and began painting in oils, watercolors and acrylics and did pen-and-ink sketches.

He depicted the hilly terrain of northern Harford County along the Mason-Dixon line at Whiteford and Delta, returning often to a setting of black willow trees.

An exhibit of his paintings, which he named Landscapes of the Mind, hangs at the Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air.

Friday, March 24

Maryland section, Page 6B

Joppa man charged with sexual abuse

A Joppa man with a history of sex offense convictions has been charged with the sexual abuse of an 11-year-old boy who waited while a family member took piano lessons from the man's wife, the Harford County state's attorney said last week.

David B. Mentzer was charged Tuesday with the sexual abuse of a minor, third-degree sexual offense and fourth-degree sexual offense, according to the county state's attorney's office.

In 1987, Mentzer was convicted of a sex offense involving a 14-year-old boy in Harford County, and in 1981, he was convicted of a sex offense in Kentucky, said Diane Adkins-Tobin, an assistant state's attorney with the Harford County Child Advocacy Center.

Mentzer is being held without bond at Harford County Detention Center, Adkins-Tobin said. He faces 25 years in prison if convicted, but the prosecutor said the sentence could be longer if the case is filed under subsequent-offender provisions.

The advocacy center's investigation began when a complaint was filed by the boy's family Monday, Adkins-Tobin said. The child was a piano student of Mentzer's wife, as were his mother and sister, Adkins-Tobin said.

Established in 1993, the center is comprised of representatives from the state's attorney's office, the Harford County Sheriff's Office, the county Department of Social Services and the state police. Each year, the center investigates about 300 allegations of sexual abuse of children, Adkins-Tobin said.

Investigators are attempting to interview others who brought their children to the Mentzer residence, Adkins-Tobin said. Anyone with information about the investigation is asked to call the advocacy center at 410-638-3294.

Thursday, March 23

Maryland section, Page 3B

Crews tame blaze near Rocks park

Firefighters spent more than three hours this morning taming an 8-acre brush fire north of Rocks State Park in Harford County that is believed to have been ignited by a dropped cigarette, officials said.

About 60 crews responded at 10:30 a.m. to the scene, a rocky hillside on Telegraph Road between Madonna and Eden Mill roads where brush and trees burned as winds kicked up, said Stan Gustintis, chief of the Norrisville Volunteer Fire Company.

"We couldn't fight it with conventional equipment. It was the kind of fire you have to fight with manpower, and that's why it escalated as much as it did," Gustintis said.

Wednesday, March 22

Maryland section, Page 3B

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