February: Snow and more snow means less and less school

It was four days off and counting for Harford County Public Schools students, who were enjoying Mother Nature's wrath of snow and ice at the end of January and the beginning of February. Students were off Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday because of the weather, and their last day for the summer was extended to June 17, so far.

A coach in Harford County's parks and recreation system was steamed because, unlike other years when he volunteered to coach youth sports, he was being asked to provide his social security number for a background check. His beef wasn't with the background check, but with having to provide such private information to do so. Because he refused, the Emmorton rec basketball coach was relieved of his coaching duties.

Residents in the age-targeted Legacy at Gateway condo complex in Bel Air were up in arms because the developer, Mike Jones, wanted to eliminate the age restriction on the housing community. He said it was because the economy was sluggish and he wanted to open up sales to buyers of all ages.

The school system backed off somewhat on a proposal to shuffle students pending the opening of the new Red Pump Elementary School. No students who live in the Spenceola Farms community would have to change schools, contrary to the proposal introduced that would have had half the students in the neighborhood staying at Forest Hill and the other half moving to Forest Lakes.

Maj. Mark Forwood, a member of Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane's command staff, pleaded guilty to a series of thefts as well as removing at least one lewd picture of an underage girl from a police file and transferring it to his personal computer. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

A bill was introduced to increase fees at the Harford Waste Disposal Center. The legislation called for the following increases: $3 to $5 for private automobiles, vans and SUVs and $5 to $7 for standard pickup trucks. Tipping fees were to go from $50 to $67 a ton in the next fiscal year, to $68 in 2012, $70 in 2013 and $72 in 2014.

Tweaking the elementary redistricting plan continued, with the school board agreeing to move fewer children than proposed from Youth's Benefit Elementary. The most recent change kept 38 students, who were slated to be moved to Jarrettsville Elementary, at the Fallston school. They lived south of Putnam Road, on the southeast side of Route 165 (Baldwin Mill Road).

A deal was being brokered to get a 15-year tax break for Presbyterian Home of Maryland's private retirement community in Aberdeen. Del. Mary-Dulany James was planning to introduce a bill that would give the City of Aberdeen tax authority on hotel rooms, contingent on the city giving tax breaks to Presbyterian Home. Though the legislation had yet to be introduced, Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett had already issued his opinion: "…I oppose any kind of tax forgiveness for this property," he said.

Add a convention and conference center to the long list of capital projects Harford County leaders were looking to build. The 60,000-square-foot center would be partially-funded by the private sector and partly by revenue from the proposed hotel room tax (if the tax ever came to be).

Felony charges of maintaining a common nuisance by administering drugs and contributing to the conduct of a child were dropped, but two Fallston parents were still facing misdemeanor charges in connection with a party at their home where 70 to 200 teenagers were drinking. Lawyers for the couple were talking with the Harford County assistant state's attorney to work out a plea agreement and avoid trial. The parents, one a lawyer and the other a Baltimore County Public Schools employee, were subsequently charged with allowing underage consumption.

Aberdeen police investigating an online "solicitation" ad for a city address said the woman involved could be connected to human trafficking. The woman, who had an address in Brooklyn, N.Y., told investigators who contacted her she was in a motel room and that it would be $160 per hour. Police said it seemed there "does seem to be more to it than just a simple prostitution arrest" of the woman, who spoke Mandarin Chinese, and admitted the incident was still under investigation.

Harford County's population was growing at a rate of about 2,600 a year, though overall growth slowed in the last decade, according to 2010 U.S. Census data just released. The county's population grew by 12 percent between 2000 and 2010 to 244,826, and it was concentrated in the areas north and south of Bel Air in communities such as Forest Hill, Emmorton and Abingdon. The same data also showed one in five of Harford's residents considered themselves part of a non-white minority.

Forest Hill resident Ernie Tyler, the Baltimore Orioles longtime umpires attendant, died Feb. 10 at age 86. Mr. Tyler started as an usher before he filled in "temporarily" as the umpires attendant for a few weeks, which became 51 years. He had worked 3,819 consecutive homes games and was the Orioles "other" Iron Man.

In the event of more inclement weather, the school system found some more days to use as makeups before adding them to the end of the year. Students would be going to school April 1, May 20 and June 14 through 17, days they were originally scheduled to be off, to make up the snow days.

A 2010 North Harford High grad, Ashley Nicole Stewart, was killed in a car crash on Grier Nursery Road. She was in a car driven by Mark Patrick Buchanan, which crossed the center line and hit an oncoming pickup truck head on. Ms. Stewart, 18, and a Harford Community College student, was described by her father as "goal-oriented, happy, smart, pretty and organized."

An Edgewood man who videotaped a 4-year-old girl while he was sexually assaulting her pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 60 years in jail, with 20 suspended, and was still facing federal charges of videotaping the assault.

The estimated cost of a paid fire and ambulance service for Harford County was estimated at $61 million, with an operating budget of about $600 million, according to a report released. In response to the report, which didn't full out endorse a paid service, but did make recommendations to restructure what already exists, Harford County Executive David Craig said, "We have no intention of replacing the volunteer fire service or EMS service in Harford County."

What the report, done by a Virginia consultant hired by the county government, did say was that fire and EMS response in Harford County is too slow. "The present deployment of EMS resources in Harford County is in serious need of overhaul to reduce the late responses and failures to respond."

Those makeup days approved a week earlier proved necessary, as another 6 inches of snow blanketed Harford County and once again canceled schools for at least one day for Harford students. What made this snow especially hard to stomach was that it came just days after temperatures were in the mid-70s.

Edward Folderauer, 55, the Forest Hill man who was injured in a crash involving a Harford County school bus in September 2010, died of his injuries. He had been hospitalized since the crash.

Sustainability and public involvement via the Internet were two of the dominant concepts as Harford County kicked off the process to update its Master Plan and Land Use Element Plan. The updated plan lays the groundwork for the county's growth into the next decade and provides a basis for the comprehensive zoning review that follows.

Kathleen M. Ellis, 44, died in a fire in her home that investigators called suspicious. Ms. Ellis was rescued from her home as firefighters battled the blaze, but she died later that afternoon. The call was dispatched around 12:13 a.m. after a 911 call, in which the caller said she "was raped today," then "he's going to…," disconnected.

Five Harford County residents were among the 17 Baltimore City police officers who allegedly received kickbacks from the owners of a car repair shop after the officers sent business their way rather than to city-approved companies. One of them was paid nearly $13,000, federal prosecutors said.

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