Council votes to expand county landmarks list
The Baltimore County Council moved last night to expand the historic landmarks list, approve the hiring of a firm to secure federal money for jailing illegal immigrants and to allow wineries to have sales operations in certain rural areas.
Nine additions were placed on the landmarks list, including a 1905 Colonial Revival house in the Avalon area of Halethorpe, the late-1800s Pine Grove School in the Cub Hill area's Doncaster Village and the 19th-century Stiltz's Folly farmstead in Hereford.
The council also voted to renew a contract with Texas-based Justice Benefits, which prepares applications for a federal program that reimburses states for housing undocumented immigrants in jails. Under the contract, the firm will collect 18 percent of the procurements. County officials estimate the firm will secure $25,000 to $30,000 a year for the county.
In addition, it voted to allow wholesale and retail distribution of wine on parcels that are at least 50 acres and zoned RC-5 (rural residential). Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Towson-Perry Hall Democrat and the bill's sponsor, said it would help preserve the rural character of the northern part of the county.
In the only vote of the night that was not unanimous, the council defeated a resolution that would have expressed support for a federal proposal to make it easier for workers to join unions.
Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, had sponsored the resolution in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, currently before Congress. The resolution was defeated by a 5-2 vote, with Olszewski and Gardina making up the minority.
Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, said before the meeting that the council should not "meddle" in federal legislation.
"My constituency elected me to represent them on county issues," said Moxley. "I don't think that it is our place to write to Congress and ask them to do something."
During the public discussion period after the votes, six county employees voiced their concerns about negotiations between unions and administration officials on changes to employee health care and pensions.
"Politicians are constantly reducing the taxes and then taking away benefits from county employees," said Jeff Magness of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees.
Lawyers argue for LNG regulation
Lawyers for Baltimore County asked a federal judge yesterday to allow the government to enforce a new law prohibiting liquefied natural gas facilities from being built in environmentally sensitive coastal areas.
In the request filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, county attorneys argue that the law, passed in June, is a valid land-use regulation and is not trumped by federal energy regulation.
U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett, who had struck down an earlier county law on LNG terminals, issued a temporary restraining order last month at the request of lawyers for AES Corp., the global power supply company that wants to build the LNG facility on Sparrows Point.
Lawyers for the county wrote that the June law wasn't an attempt to "circumvent the court's earlier rulings. ... Rather, the Baltimore County Council simply went `back to the drawing board' and devised another legislative means of addressing" the Sparrows Point LNG proposal.
The company has until April 2 to respond to the county's requests.
A hearing on similar measures being considered by state lawmakers is scheduled for Friday in Annapolis. On Thursday, legislators are to hear testimony about a proposal to make companies that build LNG facilities liable for accidents at their facilities.
Police seek man in robbery of store
County police are asking for the public's help in identifying a suspect in a robbery of a Royal Farms store in the 9600 block of Pulaski Highway in Middle River.
Police said that at 12:15 a.m. March 13, a man entered the Royal Farms store, walked up to the counter and put a note in front of the clerk demanding money before reaching across the counter and grabbing the cash drawer. He removed an undisclosed amount of money and ran out.
The man, who implied that he had a weapon by reaching into his pocket, also might be responsible for another robbery that occurred at the same Royal Farms store at 7:30 a.m. Dec. 29, police said. In that robbery, a similar suspect description was given. He is described as black, age 18 to 20 and 5 feet 9 inches tall. He was wearing a black pullover hooded sweat shirt with a light-colored material, possibly yellow, inside the hood. He also had dark-colored tennis shoes with light stripes and a dark knit cap.
Anyone with information is asked to call county police at 410-307-2020 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 866-7-LOCKUP (866-756-2587). Those calling Metro Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,000.
Four councilmen to speak at meeting