Miners missing after wall falls in Western Md.

CITY / COUNTY DIGEST

April 18, 2007

Rescue crews were working last night to reach two coal miners believed buried beneath 75 feet of rock and dirt from a collapsed wall of an open pit mine in Western Maryland, an emergency management official said.

The first call about the collapse at the Tri-Star Job No. 3 mine near Barton came at 10:05 a.m. yesterday, according to Brian Miller, an Allegany County 911 dispatcher.

"Basically, there are still two unaccounted-for employees that we believe are buried within the pile of debris, which is upwards of 75 feet tall," said Richard L. DeVore, Allegany County director of emergency services.

He said the operation was a rescue effort, not a recovery effort, meaning there is hope the miners are alive.

Associated Press

Baltimore

Downtown

Charles Plaza could get a new name

Baltimore's City Council is considering a bill that would rename Charles Plaza on North Charles Street to honor Walter Sondheim Jr., the well-known local civic leader who died this year.

Sondheim is perhaps best known for desegregating city schools as president of the Baltimore school board in 1954. He led the city's development agency in the 1970s and 1980s and also worked for the Greater Baltimore Committee.

The plaza, on Charles Street between Saratoga and Lexington streets, would be named the Walter Sondheim Jr. Plaza. The bill, introduced by Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, has been referred to the judiciary and legislative investigations committee.

John Fritze

Harford County

Street

State approves landfill expansion

State environmental officials have approved Harford County's request for a permit allowing a $3 million expansion of the only county-operated landfill.

The Maryland Department of the Environment determined that the county's application to expand the Harford Waste Disposal Center in Street was "technically complete and in compliance with state laws," according to a notice issued this week.

"We are really pleased that MDE has finally issued this decision," Robert Cooper, Harford's public works director, said yesterday. "We have to proceed with the completion of design as soon as possible."

The decision culminated a lengthy review of the county's application and on citizen testimony at public hearings. At a hearing in November, dozens of residents voiced their opposition to the project.

The county buries about 50,000 tons of trash annually in collector cells at the 60-acre facility, which opened in the 1980s in a rural area. The center is fast approaching its capacity of 2.3 million tons and is expected to run out of space by the end of next year, officials said.

The expansion plan calls for building four cells on an adjoining 77 acres northeast of the current receiving area.

The state's decision takes effect May 11, unless an appeal is submitted to MDE.

The decision and supporting documents are available for public review at the Whiteford Library, 2407 Whiteford Road.

Mary Gail Hare

Baltimore County

U.S. court

Judge asked to rule on political signs

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland asked a federal court judge yesterday to rule on its challenge to a Baltimore County law that would restrict when political signs can be displayed.

In a motion for summary judgment, lawyers for ACLU of Maryland argue that regulations on how many days before and after an election residents may display campaign signs violates federal freedom of speech rights. The organization filed a lawsuit against Baltimore County in February on behalf of three former local candidates and four county residents who wish to place political signs in their yards.

The County Council passed legislation in December that prohibits residents from exhibiting campaign signs on private property earlier than 45 days before a primary election. The regulations also require unsuccessful candidates in primary elections to remove their campaign signs within seven days after the polls close, and all candidates to remove their signs seven days after the general election.

Violations carry a potential $500 fine.

County attorneys have until May 3 to respond to the ACLU request for summary judgment, a procedure that allows a judge to decide, without a trial, legal issues in a case in which facts are not in dispute. County Council members have said that the regulations are no different than other rules on signs, such as the location and size of a business placard. They also have said the rules do not violate free speech rights because the legislation does not extend to signs that express political beliefs - only applying to signs for candidates for office.

Laura Barnhardt

Talbot County

Trappe

Pilot tried to avoid lightning, NTSB says

The pilot of a small plane that crashed into an Eastern Shore farm field April 4, killing him and two other men aboard, asked air traffic controllers for permission to slightly change course to fly around lightning moments before the crash, according to a preliminary report by federal investigators.

Pilot Gregory D. Doppke of Greenwich, Conn., reported encountering lightning and a loss of altitude shortly before the plane disappeared from radar, according to the National Transportation Safety Board report. Doppke, Richard Lomas of Stamford, Conn., and Andrew Young of Mahopac, N.Y., all died when the Piper PA-30 crashed in the field near the hamlet of Trappe, about 5 miles north of Cambridge.

According to family members, the longtime friends were headed for a golfing vacation. The trio left from an airport in White Plains, N.Y., heading for an airport in Southern Pines, N.C.

Paul Schlamm, a spokesman for the NTSB said a final report on the crash might take up to six months.

Chris Guy

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