www.baltimoresun.com/explore/harford/news/ph-ag-year-in-review-july-20121227,0,6301899.story

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July: Fifty Shades of controversy; Vi Ripken kidnapped

BY ROBIN BENJES, Aegis staff

9:29 PM EST, December 27, 2012

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Vi Ripken, the mother of baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., was abducted from outside of her home. She was tied up and put in the back seat of her car and driven all around Central Maryland. She was later found with her hands bound but unharmed in her car parked a few houses away from her Aberdeen home. The Aberdeen Police Department continue to search for the abductor and rewards were being offered for information leading to a conviction. As 2012 ends, no one has been charged.

Violent thunderstorms swept through the region causing downed trees and utility lines and leaving thousands of homes and businesses without power. By the height of the storm, about 10,000 homes and businesses lost power in Harford County. The Route 40 area between Joppa, Edgewood and lower Abingdon suffered the most power outages. Some homes were still without power four days after the storm.

The Fourth of July was celebrated with parades in Bel Air, Havre de Grace and Edgewood-Joppatowne. Many spectators also enjoyed the evening fireworks displays offered at various locations.

An announcement was made about a Walmart coming to the Emmorton area off Route 924 and Plumtree Road. The Walmart will be located on 33.7 acres on the southwest side of the intersection of Route 924 and Plumtree Road and will be larger than the one opened in Fallston in March. An input meeting was held at Patterson Mill High School auditorium. Hundreds of people came to the meeting to protest the proposed Walmart. Most of the complaints and questions were in regards to increases in traffic and crime in the Route 924 area. The fight against the new Walmart proposed for south Bel Air would continue through the rest of the year.

Single-family home permits are on the rise in Harford County, according to the county's planning and zoning department. It still has not reached the level of the housing boom years in the early 2000s. Homes are staying on the market fewer days, and the number of homes for sale is increasing.

The new Bel Air Main Street parking lot, on the site of the former Branch Bank and Trust Company building, opens to the public.

Harford County was suffering through a two-week long heat wave where temperatures were hovering around 90 degrees with the heat index climbing into the upper 90s. Cooling centers were opened in local library branches and at volunteer fire company stations in Bel Air and Abingdon.

Two Royal Farms stores are planned for the Aberdeen and Forest Hill areas of the county.

A new sculpture, called "Daybreak," was revealed on the Ma & Pa Trail. The sculpture serves as a reminder to passers-by of what the wooded path was like during the days when trains rode the rails. The sculpture, which is located just north and east of the tunnel that carries the trail under Route 24, was the Eagle Scout project of Tom Fowler. A display board features a timeline and photos of the railroad, including a picture of its route map. The last passenger train made its run on the railroad on Aug. 31, 1954.

Harford County Farm Fair directors decided to hold a carnival a week prior to the fair as another fund raiser for the organization. The carnival was held on the back side of the Equestrian Center in Bel Air. The rainy weather that week played havoc with attendance every day it was open.

Ruby Tuesday restaurant closes its doors on Route 1 in Bel Air. One of the first Bel Air chain restaurants in the Routes 1 and 24 area opened its doors in 1994. It will be reborn as a seafood restaurant called Marlin and Ray's.

Chick-fil-A opens in Forest Hill. The first 100 customers in line received a free year's supply of Chick-fil-A meals. Nearly 200 people filled the parking lot overnight with tents and camping gear hoping to be one of the first through the doors.

Dry weather is to blame for the rising prices of corn. The corn cop in Harford County was 75 to 80 percent of what it should be this time of year.

The 25th annual Farm Fair opens with their traditional prayer breakfast and continued throughout the weekend.

A popular radio personality, Stephen G. Smith, known as Stash on 98 Rock, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, negligent driving, and other traffic offenses. Police said that Smith was driving a Nissan Quest north on Route 24 at a high rate of speed when he struck the rear of a Hyundai stopped at the signal near the intersection with I95 and pushed it into another car. Five passengers were taken by ambulance to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center where they were treated and released.

A new housing development, Red Pump Crescent, is being planned along Red Pump Road north of Bel Air with 40 townhouses planned on 9 acres near the new Red Pump Elementary School.

Harford Community College's Board of Trustees approved a power purchase which is expected to save the college more than $1 million in energy costs over the next 20 years. Solar panels installed on the roofs of four buildings on campus will potentially save on the college's energy bills.

Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens Linebacker, signed autographs at the grand opening of the New Poor Boys store in Bel Air.