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Hopefuls for council, executive square off at forum in Guilford

With about six weeks until the general election, sparks began flying Sept. 21 at an African-American-sponsored forum for Howard County candidates in Guilford.

In addition to the occasional sparring between candidates, event organizer Sherman Howell, irritated at the absence of state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, got in a few jabs, too.

The forum was sponsored by African-Americans in Howard County at First Baptist Church of Guilford for those running for county executive, County Council and state Senate. Another forum is scheduled for Oct. 19 for other offices, including Congress and Maryland House of Delegates.

Jury finds Stanley guilty in fatal stabbing

A Howard County jury found Rodney Maurice Stanley guilty Wednesday of second-degree murder and two other charges related to the fatal stabbing of Thomas Jefferson Harding in August 2000. Harding was stabbed repeatedly by Stanley during a fight at his home in Columbia.

During a sentencing hearing Dec. 5, authorities will consider whether Stanley, who twice was found mentally incompetent to stand trial before being found competent, was criminally responsible for his actions. If he is not found criminally responsible, he could be committed to a mental institution.

School-library partnership aims to benefit students

Rebeka Gomez Wick, a fourth-grader at Phelps Luck Elementary School in Columbia, was having trouble with her math homework this month until she got a tutorial on calculating percentages from Susan Stonesifer, a librarian at Howard County Central Library, who steered Rebeka to a Web site that answered her question.

Public libraries have long been a place for students to seek help with research and homework. But public librarians frequently did not know which questions were being asked in classes, or lacked the resources to help students find answers.

That disconnect is disappearing. Confronted with lagging student performance and limited resources, schools and public libraries are reaching out to form closer partnerships, with explicit goals, to make better use of the libraries as an education tool.

Taxes, spending cuts cover projected budget shortfall

While Maryland's budget climate continues to darken, Howard County's brightened sharply, as County Executive James N. Robey announced that an $18 million budget shortfall predicted in the winter is gone.

Because of a combination of better-than-predicted income-tax revenues and sharp, though temporary, spending cuts, Howard won't need a penny from its $28.8 million Rainy Day Fund to close the books on the fiscal year that ended June 30. Robey received authority from the Howard County Council in May to remove up to $15 million from the county's reserve fund to fill the gap.

Although county officials have had indications for months that the deficit was shrinking, they learned it was gone three weeks ago, Robey announced at a news conference Tuesday in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.

Proposal to store propane near 2 schools is rejected

A controversial plan to store 50,000 gallons of propane near two western Howard County schools was shot down Tuesday night by the local Board of Appeals, marking what could be the end of a four-year-long fight.

Parents were visibly relieved at the ruling. It was a rare example of a development proposal prompting a change in county law and then being blocked by those new regulations.

Projects are judged by the law in place when they are submitted. But after a setback in court, developer J. Chris Pippen amended his propane proposal - months after the new regulations were approved.

Many parents frustrated by school boundary plans

The community saw proposed changes in Howard elementary and middle school boundary lines Tuesday night, and what they saw left many parents frustrated and full of questions.

Susan Defibaugh, who lives in the Hopewell neighborhood in Owen Brown village, said she thought her child would attend Dasher Green. But after looking at maps of suggested changes, it appeared more likely that her child will attend Talbott Springs Elementary School, which Defibaugh thinks is the worst in the county system. If that happens, she said, she will look into private schools.

Of the more than 200 people who showed up at Hammond High School's auditorium for the information meeting, most were unhappy at night's end: They were concerned that moving their children would subject them to inferior educations and cause them to be fed into middle and high schools where they don't know anyone.

Board is told of problems with absentee ballots

Knowing he would be away during the primary election, Paul L. Spadin of Fulton carefully made out an absentee ballot and mailed it Sept. 6 - four days before the primary. That's why he was shocked Saturday when he received a letter from the Howard County Election Board telling him his ballot had not been counted because it arrived too late.

His ballot arrived Sept. 13, two days after the deadline.

Fulton, 66, is going to Circuit Court to seek redress as the county election board tries to figure out - before the Nov. 5 general election - what went wrong with his and other ballots that took up to nine days to get from various Howard County locations to the board's offices.

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