Baltimore County Digest

Baltimore County Digest

July 26, 2006

Nursing homes urged to prepare for storms

An official from an association of nursing home operators in Louisiana shared his experiences from Hurricane Katrina with long-term care providers yesterday at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and urged them to be prepared for disasters.

About 300 representatives from nursing homes and assisted-living facilities attended the all-day conference at UMBC. Participants discussed the types of emergencies most likely to affect the area and learned how to draft a suitable disaster plan. Baltimore County has 49 nursing homes and 299 assisted-living facilities, officials said.

"I think it's important for people in Louisiana to share their experiences with others - especially with those that might be in a place that could experience the same thing we experienced," said Joseph Donchess, the executive director of the Louisiana Nursing Home Association. "Hopefully, Baltimore will never live through that. It was a very unique situation - a very devastating situation - and we learned a lot from it."

Donchess said there were several steps that needed to be taken for nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to be prepared for a disaster, such as ensuring that a sufficient number of staff members would help during a crisis.

"Even though we had adequate staff at the beginning of the storm for Hurricane Katrina, as days went ... a lot of the staff left," he said. "They were concerned about their family, they were concerned about their personal possessions that may be 3 feet under water. Once they left, there was very little chance that they were going to return."

He said it should also be a priority for nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to identify an emergency shelter site and have a transportation agreement in place.

Richard Muth, the county's director of homeland security and emergency preparedness, said an evacuation plan is a must, especially given the county's large senior population.

"The goal of this conference is to ensure that these plans are usable and up-to-date," he said.

Nick Shields

Jacksonville

U.S. judges to take up MTBE issue

A panel of federal judges scheduled to meet in September are to decide whether lawsuits filed on behalf of Jacksonville residents affected by a fuel leak at an Exxon-Mobil gas station can be consolidated with other federal cases involving the gasoline additive MTBE.

Two law firms have filed suits in Baltimore County Circuit Court, claiming that negligence by Exxon Mobil Corp. and a service station operator led to a 25,000-gallon gasoline leak that fouled residents' wells.

But U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled last week that the matters should be tried in federal court. He also ruled that a panel of federal judges should decide whether the lawsuits should be consolidated with other federal lawsuits about MTBE product liability being heard in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Andrew Gendron, a lawyer for Exxon, successfully argued that federal court was the proper venue for litigation, claiming that the federal Energy Policy of 2005 specifically says that issues regarding the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether are to be heard in federal court.

Andrew G. Slutkin, who filed lawsuits on behalf of 56 Jacksonville residents, said yesterday that his firm, Snyder, Slutkin & Snyder, hasn't decided whether to object to the transfer to New York or whether to appeal Garbis' ruling on jurisdiction.

"Our case is not based on a challenge to the use of MTBE in gasoline," Slutkin said. "We believe cases involving gasoline spills from local stations are cases that should be heard by local juries."

Mary V. Koch, a lawyer at Peter Angelos' firm who filed a class action lawsuit against the oil giant in March, did not return calls yesterday.

Laura Barnhardt

Sparrows Point

Dumping of dredge spoils opposed

In the latest attempt to thwart plans for a liquefied natural gas terminal on Sparrows Point, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. urged state officials yesterday to ban the disposal of dredged material at a nearby island.

The company BWI-Sparrows Point has received permission from the state to use a facility at Hart-Miller Island to dispose of dredged material from its construction of a boat repair yard at Sparrows Point.

In a letter to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Smith said that allowing dredging for the yard would make it easier for another company, AES Corp., to win federal government approval of plans for an LNG terminal, a project that would also require dredging. A spokesman for Ehrlich said yesterday that the governor had not received Smith's letter and therefore could not comment on Smith's request.

AES has proposed building a $400 million shipping terminal and LNG processing plant on a 60-acre plot at the old Sparrows Point shipyard near the Key Bridge. The company's plans also call for construction of an 87-mile natural gas pipeline from Sparrows Point to southern Pennsylvania.

Josh Mitchell

Owings Mills

Candidates forum set for tomorrow

The Winterset Single Family Homeowners Association will hold a political forum for candidates running for state and local office from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow at Winterset Recreation, 9726 Watts Road, Owings Mills.

Speakers will include U.S. Senate candidates Kweisi Mfume, Mike Schaefer, Kevin Zeese and Thomas McCaskill; state Senate candidate Del. Bobby A. Zirkin; House of Delegates candidates Rick Yaffe, Sharon Bloom and Noel Levy; and Baltimore County Council candidates Kenneth N. Oliver, an incumbent, and Penny McCrimmon.

Information: 443-472-2826 or www.410homes.com/Communities/Winterset.

Events or news items for the Baltimore County Digest may be submitted to baltco.news@baltsun.com. Information should be sent at least 10 days in advance of the event.

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