Program shoots for higher goals than basketball

Some say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but a local group believes that the way to a young man's mind -- especially a teen-ager's -- is through basketball.

The Baobab Tree Project Inc., a nonprofit organization in Columbia, has started a nine-week program designed for boys in eighth through 12th grades. It is a leadership program in the guise of an anti-tobacco program under the auspices of a basketball program. It might sound complex, but the components mesh and build on one another, said Peter Taiwo, one of the group's founders.

The program focuses on leadership, mentoring and self-esteem, with a strong anti-tobacco theme. The teen participants have dubbed the series COURT -- Creating an Organization of Unity and Responsible Thinking.

Soil to be replaced to appease pupils' parents

Howard County school officials have agreed to remove soil around Worthington Elementary School in Ellicott City to assuage the fears of parents and community members who have complained about high levels of metals and potentially toxic chemicals in the ground.

Sydney L. Cousin, the school system's chief operating officer, said the Department of Public Works has recommended that Cousin's office remove about 2 inches of soil surrounding the school and replace it with 4 inches of fresh top soil.

John O'Hara, chief of the department's Bureau of Environmental Services, told Cousin that testing his office had done on the soil showed no danger to pupils or adults at the school. But he recommended the "remedial work" to soothe parents and nearby residents. The soil would be replaced on about half of the school's 19 acres in areas closest to the school, Cousin said.

Oella residents speak out against apartments

More than 100 residents of the quaint, sleepy Patapsco riverside village of Oella jammed into a nearby school lunchroom Tuesday night to hear details of a controversial proposal to transform the old Oella Mill into 175 apartments and to protest the dangers they see from it.

The developer told them the apartments will turn Oella into an upscale community, raising the values of the mill and existing homes in the Baltimore County neighborhood just across the river from Ellicott City.

"We're going to do a tremendous project here. We're proud of it, and we're going to be good neighbors," said Jon Wallenmeyer, vice president for East Coast development of the Forest City Residential Group.

But many in Oella fear that hundreds of cars owned by mill apartment residents would clog the village's narrow access roads and fundamentally change the character of the tiny historic mill town.

Landscapers' lawyer says business will continue

The Mullinix brothers wanted to tell a Howard County land-use panel why it should make legal a landscaping operation on one of their farms, but the Board of Appeals declined to hear the case Tuesday night.

That didn't deter the Mullinixes' lawyer. He said the brothers are going to keep operating. It's a sign of the case's complexity that attorney Malcolm Kane might have a leg to stand on.

Conference addresses youth sports woes

When Lisa Lacota brought her 5-year-old godson home from his first soccer game, his dad's question was classic: "Who won?" Puzzled, the child asked his mom.

"He knows he kicked and he played," she told about 75 youth sports officials at a statewide conference Wednesday in Columbia. The topic -- how to protect young players from adults.

"There's too much emphasis on winning, and no fun," said Lacota, vice president of the Florida-based National Alliance for Youth Sports.

Alarmed by the trend, representatives of 26 city, county and private sports groups from across Maryland and Northern Virginia attended the conference, called "Creating a Shield to Protect the Youth Sports Environment," in search of answers.

Convicted killer Oesby sentenced in rape case

Antonio Donnell Oesby, a Washington man serving multiple life terms for rape and murder, was sentenced to life plus 60 years in prison Wednesday for a Columbia rape and carjacking linked to him through DNA.

Howard County Circuit Judge James B. Dudley imposed the sentence during a half-hour, off-the-docket proceeding planned quietly after Oesby, 25, forced postponements of two previously scheduled hearings after he complained that he was ill.

The idea was to "not create any additional stress on Mr. Oesby as he awaited a sentencing proceeding," said Deputy Public Defender Louis P. Willemin, Oesby's lawyer.

Dudley's sentence will run consecutively to two consecutive life terms imposed by a Prince George's County judge for murder and rape convictions tied to the death of a Laurel jogger in late 1999. The Prince George's sentence is consecutive to a sentence of 25 years to life imposed for a Washington rape.

Officials seek funding for new drug court

State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon, Howard County Executive James N. Robey and county drug coordinator Jessie K. Smith all support the idea of a drug court.

Dozens of county health and justice officials, including Police Chief Wayne Livesay and Health Department Bureau of Addictions director Marilyn Manson, also are behind the project.

But with a projected $18 million shortfall in the county's budget this year, the many drug court supporters will have to shake enough grant money from federal funding trees to get the project going.

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