Around The Region

August 18, 2009

Counties, cities seek U.S. funds for broadband network

Eight Central Maryland counties and two cities have jointly submitted an application for $100 million in federal stimulus money to create a regional broadband computer network. Ira Levy, Howard County's information technology director, has been leading an effort to jointly apply for the federal funds, which would be used to link Baltimore and Annapolis to governments in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard, Frederick, Prince George's and Montgomery counties. The resulting system would enable secure communications during a national emergency, avoiding the kind of communications breakdown that occurred during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. The effort is called the "One Maryland Broadband Plan," and is intended to also serve schools, senior and health centers, libraries, low-income residents and those who can't afford computers. It can help connect rural and urban areas, plus spur economic development. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is to review the application along with others.

-Larry Carson

O'Malley rules out taking part of piggyback tax

A spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley said that he has no plans to take a portion of city and county income taxes as a revenue stream to help close the state's looming budget deficit. Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon had raised concerns about such a proposal, saying she had heard talk of such a plan over the weekend when state and local lawmakers met in Ocean City. She said any loss to the city of revenue from the piggyback tax, as it is known, would be "devastating." Baltimore finance analysts estimate that this budget year they will collect $251 million from the piggyback tax, which is the second-largest revenue stream for the city. Dixon spokesman Scott Peterson said the mayor is "pleased" that such an option is off the table.

- Annie Linskey

Work to affect traffic on McDonogh Road bridge

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The McDonogh Road bridge over the Gwynns Falls will be cut down to a single lane to carry two-way traffic next week as the State Highway Administration launches a project to replace the surface of the nearly 70-year-old structure. After closing the eastbound lane on or about next Tuesday, two-way traffic in the westbound lane will be managed through installation of a temporary signal that will operate around the clock all week. A second phase of the project will involve work on the westbound lane. The bridge was built in 1940, but the highway administration said it remains structurally safe - needing only a new deck. Most of the work will be performed between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays, the agency said, but there will also be some night work. The project is expected to be completed next spring.

- Michael Dresser

Wounded war photographer treated at city hospital

An Associated Press photographer wounded in a bomb blast in southern Afghanistan was in a Baltimore hospital Monday to be treated for severe leg injuries. Emilio Morenatti's left foot was amputated because of the injury. "He is recovering well and is in good spirits," AP spokesman Jack Stokes said. "We'll know more about the next steps in his recuperation later this week." Morenatti and AP Television News videographer Andi Jatmiko were traveling last week with a U.S. military unit when their vehicle ran over a bomb planted in open desert terrain. Two soldiers were also hurt, including one who suffered severe leg wounds.

- Associated Press

Hotels fined for lack of carbon monoxide detectors

The Ocean City fire marshal's office has fined two hotels for failing to install carbon monoxide detectors. The Americana Hotel, which was evacuated and three people were sickened this month after high levels of carbon monoxide were discovered, has been fined $10,000. Authorities say it will stay closed until all carbon monoxide-producing equipment can be certified safe and installed properly. The El Capitan has been fined $2,000. A family of six was sickened by carbon monoxide at that hotel in June.

- Associated Press

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