In Baltimore CityThree-alarm fire destroys vacant store...


In Baltimore City

Three-alarm fire destroys vacant store at east-side mall

A three-alarm fire that broke out early yesterday destroyed a vacant store at Old Town Mall, a long-struggling strip of retail outlets in East Baltimore that is about to be renovated by the city.

The cause of the 3:30 a.m. fire was under investigation yesterday. Officials said it took 80 firefighters two hours to contain the blaze at the vacant three-story brick building in the 400 block of Old Town Mall.

The main entrance to the building was blocked by a metal gate, which forced firefighters to spray water from the outside -- an inefficient way to douse the flames, said Inspector Michael Maybin, a Fire Department spokesman. One firefighter suffered a twisted knee and was treated at Mercy Medical Center and released, Maybin said.

Arundel official suggests lump-sum payment to city

Anne Arundel County's budget chief has suggested the county give Baltimore approximately $9.3 million from misdirected tax receipts in a lump sum instead of spreading it out over years.

"It probably makes more sense to do it all at once and be done with it" because the county still would have a $28 million surplus, John R. Hammond said yesterday.

State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer has yet to decide how to correct the state's error, but spokesman Michael Golden said he would consider the wishes of the city and the county. Although Baltimore is facing a projected budget shortfall of $21.3 million next year, Mayor Martin O'Malley has said he will probably use the money for a one-time need rather than offset funding cuts, tax increases and layoffs that are part of his pending budget plan.

Ex-juvenile justice official to head city court reform

A former high-ranking official with the state's juvenile justice system was named yesterday to be the coordinator for the group steering reform of the city court system.

Romaine N. Williams, former director of government and policy affairs for the Department of Juvenile Justice, will fill the position on the city's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The council's first coordinator, John H. Lewin Jr., stepped down last month to resume practicing law full time.

Most recently, Williams has been a lawyer in private practice. She worked at the juvenile justice agency for two years, ending last year. Before that, she spent 15 years as an assistant attorney general representing state agencies, including the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Life sentences upheld for ex-head of drug gang

A federal judge has refused to overturn two life sentences imposed on the former head of Jamaican Black Mafia, a now-defunct gang that was considered one of Baltimore's most violent heroin rings in the early 1990s.

Adewale J. Aladekoba had asked U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson to vacate the sentence handed down in 1994, arguing that he was poorly served by his defense lawyers. In an opinion published yesterday, Nickerson denied Aladekoba's request for a new sentence and a similar motion by Aladekoba's brother, Victor A. Aladekoba.

The brothers operated a high-volume, high-profit drug ring from the now-demolished Lafayette Courts and Lexington Terrace public housing high-rises in East Baltimore in 1991 and 1992 that authorities said brought $40,000 a day and was linked to several killings.

Six people arrested in series of drug raids

Six people suspected by police of being members of a gang that distributed at least $10,000 worth of cocaine and heroin a week in East Baltimore were arrested yesterday after police conducted raids at homes around the city.

Sgt. Dartagnan Spencer said the arrests occurred after police observed drug transactions or purchased drugs around East North Avenue, North Durham Street and East Lafayette Avenue. Police seized $5,600 worth of heroin and cocaine, $900 in cash, drug packaging materials, ammunition and a rifle.

Corbet Toliver, 33, of the 2800 block of E. Lake Ave., described by police as the leader of the gang, was charged with possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to distribute and conspiracy. Five others also were arrested.

In Baltimore County

County officials break ground for regional park

REISTERSTOWN -- Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, County Councilman T. Brian McIntire and community leaders broke ground yesterday for the 80-acre Reisterstown Regional Park, 401 Mitchell Drive.

Construction will begin next spring. The park it will have four lighted baseball diamonds, three lighted athletic fields and parking for 250 vehicles.

Latest PAL center opens near Scotts Branch school

RANDALLSTOWN -- Baltimore County's latest PAL center opened yesterday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8220 Tawnmoore Road.

The Police Athletic League center, in a building near Scotts Branch Elementary School, has a game room, sports facilities, a homework room and office space for police and counselors.

Relay set to celebrate Town Hall renovations

RELAY -- The Relay Improvement Association will hold two events to celebrate renovations to Town Hall.

The first gathering will be a wine and cheese reception Monday. On June 1, a celebration will feature the Sudbrook Jazz Band.

Information: 410-242-3218.

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