Former sheriff comments
From: Dominick J. Mele
Former Harford County sheriff
The incident that occurred at the Harford County Detention Center concerning the death of an inmate was very unfortunate. Also unfortunate was the grand jury's response to the incident, the recommendation they found necessary to make, and the overall criticism of the way the incident was investigated by personnel from the detention center ["Sheriff's detectives to probe all future inmates' deaths," The Harford County Sun, March 1].
The comments made by the grand jury and the state's attorney are well placed. Personnel assigned to the detention center are trained in corrections. Though there may be one or two who have been cross-trained, none has the training or the experience necessary to have undertaken such a serious investigation.
In 1987, I created the position of chief of security for the detention center. The person chosen for that critical post was the former division commander of the Criminal Investigation Division. He was elevated to the rank of captain, transferred to the detention center and given complete dominion over the center's security needs, including criminal investigations.
His concerns for security encompassed both the internal and external environment of the detention center, including personal safety of officers and inmates. His main objective was obviously prevention by instituting certain proactive measures where and whenever required.
Even if this latest incident could not have been prevented, you should have a person with tools, experience and knowledge to conduct a thorough investigation on their own and able to enlist assistance from the sheriff's criminal investigation unit, crime lab technicians, etc.
This is but one of the benefits derived from having the detention center and sheriff's office operations under one central command, provided the system is properly administered.
Notwithstanding the reasons this person was removed from such an important post or that the position of chief of security may have been eliminated, someone with the same qualifications and like measure of experience should be permanently assigned to the detention center. This consideration becomes so apparent in view of the recommendations made by the foreman of the grand jury.
While the very nature of the institution makes incidents like this appear ominous, every precaution should be taken to diminish the risk of such incidents or, in the least, an investigation after the fact should be promptly undertaken by qualified personnel.
Appalled by rubble fill
From: Florian Svitak
I want to thank Alan Craver and The Harford County Sun for their reports on the Spencer Sand & Gravel rubble fill.
Without honorable journalists and a responsible press, the citizens would be denied vital information that is not only important at the present, but will have significant and, quite possibly, far-reaching ramifications well into the future.
I hope not too many readers were distracted by the "jibber" of various officials in the article "Rubble fill tests reveal toxic chemicals' presence," The Harford County Sun, April 19. These statements appear to be made to confuse and trivialize certain real facts and legitimate concerns.
It is confirmed that trichloroethylene and dichloroethene are present in the rubble fill. A legitimate question is how they came to be there in the first place. This was supposed to be a clean, toxic-free rubble fill. What happened and what is happening?
Under state and federal law, the maximum allowable level of trichloroethylene is five parts per billion -- that's five! In September 1991, tests showed 88 ppb. In March 1992, tests showed 99 ppb.
In the case of dichloroethene, the maximum allowable level is 7 ppb. In September 1991, tests showed 79 ppb; the March 1992 tests show 107 ppb. Once again these figures are way above allowable levels and appear to be growing.
A Spencer consultant stated that this stuff is floating on clay and not in the bedrock and aquifer.
But it is only a matter of time until the toxics find a way around the clay and spill into the aquifer.
As for the various assurances that people have nothing to worry about because they have public water, I hope that people have not degenerated to the point of being concerned only for the water that is piped to them. I hope that many still hold certain principles and beliefs that call for all of us to be concerned and committed to the good health and betterment of all that surrounds us -- namely the environment.
There are still citizens living in the Abingdon area who depend upon water drawn from wells.
This entire matter is extremely troubling. As we debate this issue, rubble continues to be dumped at Spencer's. There is no realistic way anyone could search each truck that rolls in there, meaning that additional toxics may well be dumped there today, tomorrow and so on.
The only future plans for the Spencer rubble fill should not be for expansion, but of cleanup and closing.
Remember these shows?
From: William Biehl
The Maryland Heritage Vocal Ensemble
Would you please help me in locating people who have information about two musical shows put on by the soldiers of the Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1918?
One show, "Who Stole the Hat," was put on locally by the soldiers in October and November 1918. The music was composed by Al Piantatadosi and the show directed by Jack Mason.
On Dec. 23, 1918, "Atta Boy" opened on Broadway. The show also was directed by Jack Mason and performed by the soldiers of Aberdeen Proving Ground. The music was by Osbourne and McDonald.
I don't know how the transition was made to Broadway. The show lasted only 24 performances, not because of the music, but because it opened just one month after the war ended.
I've gone to the Library of Congress and have about 12 songs that are attributed to both shows, but I'm interested in talking to people who have more knowledge about the show. Perhaps some soldier or relative could help me?
I've contacted the Aberdeen Proving Ground historians, and apparently all the information about the shows, other than one page in the Big Gun, is lost.
Rapid Fire, the newspaper of the post, covered the event; however, no one seems to have copies of the paper.
I started researching songs after I retired from my civilian position at Fort Meade. I arrange the songs, and my vocal ensemble performs them.
To date, I have more than 70 songs about Maryland and wish to get more stories about them. Any help you can give me would be appreciated.
From: Anthony Sarcone
Mark Guidera's May 3 column in The Harford County Sun, "Volunteerism boycott by teachers would be misguided," was but another example of the teacher-bashing that is popular in the local press and elsewhere.
Guidera, Harford County and state governments and many taxpayers are misguided, uninformed and in many cases hypocrites!
Simply put, they "want to have their cake and eat it too."
Harford public schools have never been funded at a respectable level in relation to the job expected of them. The only reason the school system outperforms what is spent on them is the school system's dedicated teachers.
Hypocrisy: The county encourages development, then laments that the tax base is too residential to support the cost of services such as schools.
Then the county says it needs more teachers and schools. To fund this, they tell the current staff there is no money for pay raises.
Who created this situation? The county government. Who pays the price? The teachers. Real fair!
Hypocrisy: The recession is very real and cannot be ignored. However, it seems the recession only applies to teacher salaries. There is no recession in education. Thanks to unbridled development, the schools have plenty of customers. People still expect teachers to do the same or better with all the new students and state requirements.
Hypocrisy: No raises for teachers, but fund athletics and clubs and other extra-curricular activities. Cut all these and put the money into the required items like teachers and materials. We already have a tax-supported parks and recreation program.
Again, the recession is only for teachers, but the program is not cut back. And who has to give free time to sponsor clubs and chaperon? The teachers, of course.
Guidera and his like are truly selfish ones. They want as much from teachers without any increased cost. Why should I be thankful that I have a job?
I earned my position and have worked hard to keep it. In reality, it is the citizens of Harford County who should be thankful for teachers who are still dedicated in spite of the double standard they put up with year in and year out.
Schools need subsidies
From: Jean R. Thomas
The article regarding the poor schools in Aberdeen, "Poor schools hamper town, report says," in the April 26 issue of The Harford County Sun is an indictment not of the school system but of this county. It is an indictment of the county executive and County Council, both now in and in the recent past, and of the citizens who have allowed this poor funding of schools to occur.
Under Habern Freeman, the former county executive, funding for Harford's schools went from 14th in the state to 22nd of 24 subdivisions.
Only Caroline and Allegany counties spend less per pupil than Harford County. The former County Council allowed this to happen.
The current county executive, Eileen Rehrmann, is continuing the pattern: underestimating revenues and overestimating expenses, pitting one set of county workers against the other, and letting essential services for citizens, and especially for children, be under-funded. After all, children don't vote.
Meanwhile, the state bit the bullet and made the pie larger. Harford will get more money from the state than originally projected. Additionally, the six poorest subdivisions will get an extra infusion of funds.
Harford will not get these extra funds even though the school system desperately needs them. Why? Harford is not a poor county, just cheap.
So essential building repairs aren't made, outdated materials and equipment are used, PTA's have bake sales and May Fairs to raise money for items that should be paid for by the county, and the citizens continue to allow this to happen to their children and grandchildren.
Our public schools are an investment, not an expense. Right now you are getting more than you are paying for. But things can't be done on the cheap forever. People won't continue to work without just compensation. Buildings crumble, and parts can't be obtained for obsolete equipment.
Then Harford will get what it is paying for: a school system which is one of the worst in the state, just like the support the system is getting from its government.