State Digest

May 23, 2007

DNR, biotech institute sign crab study pact

Maryland's Department of Natural Resources and the University of Maryland's Biotechnology Institute have signed a 10-year agreement that will help researchers continue a multimillion-dollar effort to study the blue crab.

The agreement, officially announced yesterday, lets the researchers continue to use Piney Point, an old state oyster hatchery in Southern Maryland. Since 2004, scientists with the Center for Marine Biotechnology, which is part of the biotechnology institute, have been using Piney Point to raise crabs bred in their hatchery in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Once the crabs are mature, the researchers place them in the Chesapeake Bay and study how they live.

Before the agreement was signed, the university had a year-to-year deal with the state to lease the facility, said Yonathan Zohar, the center's director.

"We wanted to know that if we invest there and do some improvements, that we will be able to use it for a longer term," he said. "It's a major program that's important for us to continue, and we want to make sure we have a place to scale it up."

At least five institutions are involved in the blue crab project, which has received $12 million in federal funds over the past five years. Researchers are hoping they will eventually be able to increase the spawning stocks of the blue crabs in the bay.

Rona Kobell


: Juvenile justice

Plan to reduce violence praised

A high-level U.S. Justice Department official said yesterday that he is confident a new agreement with Maryland officials will lead to less violence and improved conditions for troubled youths at the 144-bed Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center.

"I'm confident this will provide the foundation for lasting changes," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Wan J. Kim said at a news conference outside the justice center, where details of the settlement with the state were announced.

The state agreed in the settlement to do more to protect youths from harm, to implement suicide-prevention measures and to provide more programming and mental health and educational services, said Maryland Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore.

In a report last August, Justice Department officials said the justice facility, which opened in 2003, was being operated in an unconstitutional manner. The report noted "unacceptably high" youth-on-youth violence at the center, which houses juveniles accused of assault, drug dealing and other serious crimes.

Greg Garland

D.C. suburbs

: Metro

Senate bill would fund rehab

Maryland's U.S. senators introduced legislation Tuesday that would provide $1.5 billion over 10 years to rehabilitate the Metro transit system's aging infrastructure.

The bill, introduced by Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski, requires that Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia match the money over the next decade. A similar bill is making its way through the House.

Virginia and the district have approved the funding. Maryland lawmakers have not acted, though Gov. Martin O'Malley contends that the state's transportation trust fund is a dedicated source of revenue for Metro.

Metro's infrastructure is aging while the number of riders is growing as commuters seek to avoid worsening highway congestion.

More than 40 percent of Metro's rush-hour riders are federal government employees, and advocates say lawmakers should recognize the role Metro plays in keeping the government working.

"The government needs the Metro to get workers to their jobs, and now after 30 years of use, the Metro needs the federal government to step in and help revitalize an aging system," Cardin said in a statement.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. John W. Warner and Jim Webb of Virginia, also creates an inspector general for Metro and adds two voting members to Metro's board to represent the interests of the federal government.

Associated Press

Garrett County

: Oakland

Pharmacist jailed in drug case

A Western Maryland pharmacist who pleaded guilty to illegally possessing the prescription painkiller Oxycodone after he was caught in a drugs-for-sex sting was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Thomas G. Bolt, 54, of LaVale, who could have been sent to prison for four years, also received a year's probation.

Garrett County Circuit Judge James L. Sherbin said the sentence was not merely to punish Bolt, but to deter others in similar professions from participating in such activity.

"This is not stealing to supply an addiction," said Sherbin. "This is taking advantage of another person."

In return for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped charges of possessing narcotics with intent to deliver, and manufacturing or delivering narcotics.

Bolt, former owner of the Medicine Shoppe in Frostburg, was arrested July 6 at a Grantsville hotel where state police said he gave prescription painkillers to an undercover female state trooper and a female informant.

Police said the arrest capped a two-month investigation.

Bolt expressed remorse for his actions. "I was being a hypocrite with my son, scolding him about his alcohol use. People were more concerned than I thought. I can't begin to say how sorry I am," Bolt said during sentencing.

Associated Press

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