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City/County Digest

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In Baltimore City

Director of zoo resigns after 8 years 'for a new challenge'

The Baltimore Zoo's executive director, Robert Birkel, resigned yesterday after nearly eight years overseeing the Druid Hill Park attraction -- the third-oldest public zoo in the nation, with about 500,000 visitors a year.

"I am pleased at what I have accomplished for the zoo during my tenure here," Birkel said. "But after more than seven years, I am ready for a new challenge. I am leaving the zoo much stronger than I found it."

Birkel was instrumental in leading revitalization of the 126-year-old zoo by spearheading a $28 million fund-raising effort that established the New Baltimore Zoo Plan. The plan will improve infrastructure on the 161-acre grounds and establishes a five-year plan for new attractions that will be launched in the fall with the Polar Bear Watch.

Birkel said he intends to pursue work in developing designs and plans for other cultural institutions but is not leaving for a new job. In May, he recruited a chief executive and president, Billie Grieb, who will assume control. The zoo employs 160 people and operates with an $11 million annual budget.

579 marijuana plants seized in house; resident arrested

Neighbors' complaints of a bad odor led to the discovery of 579 marijuana plants Monday in a South Baltimore rowhouse, and the arrest of the alleged grower, city police reported.

The plants -- ranging from 8 inches to 5 feet -- were being grown on the second and third floors of the house, and the marijuana had an estimated value of $200,000 in street sales, police said. Also seized were growing lamps, timers and other apparatus used to manufacture marijuana, said police Maj. Jesse Oden.

Arrested was Kenneth B. Hranicky, 41, a resident of the house in the 600 block of Portland St. Police said he was charged with possession and possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Gusty winds knock out electricity in Roland Park

Gusty winds were blamed by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. for a power outage yesterday evening that affected 600 homes and businesses in the Roland Park area, and cut short a high school basketball game at Polytechnic Institute.

"I heard a bang, and everything went black," said Poly Athletic Director Mark Schlenoff, who was working on a computer in his office at the time. "None of our emergency lights worked. Kids and parents were hysterical."

The blackout -- caused by wind damage to a pole anchoring power lines in the 1600 block of W. Rogers Ave. -- occurred at halftime of the game between Poly and Southwestern High. Schlenoff said two flashlights and illumination from cell phones were used to evacuate the school without injury.

BGE said the outage was one of several problems scattered throughout its Central Maryland system.

Grand jury indicts woman in scalding of son, 5

A 23-year-old woman was indicted yesterday by a Baltimore grand jury on assault and child abuse charges in the scalding of her 5-year-old son with hot water.

The indictment alleges that Sheila Avery, 23, of the 600 block of N. Monroe St. placed her son in the water Jan. 5, causing first- and second-degree burns over 50 percent of his body. He remains on a ventilator in critical condition at the University of Maryland Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, prosecutors said.

Avery is charged with first- and second-degree assault, child abuse and reckless endangerment. Her arraignment is scheduled for April 25 before Circuit Judge Paul A. Smith.

Man indicted on 19 charges of perjury involving bail

A 44-year-old man was indicted by a Baltimore grand jury yesterday on 19 counts of perjury in connection with the posting of false properties as bail collateral, the state's attorney's office announced.

The indictment alleges that Eddie C. Wilson Sr. of the 5800 block of Royal Oak Ave. posted property he did not own as collateral to get people out of jail. According to prosecutors, he did this 19 times between February last year and September, each time swearing under oath that he was the owner.

Wilson's arraignment is scheduled for May 2 before Circuit Judge Paul A. Smith.

School No. 419 is renamed for black entrepreneur

The Baltimore school board renamed school No. 419 this week after a successful African-American entrepreneur who was born in the city.

The new name of the school is Reginald F. Lewis School of Business and Law. In 1987, Lewis bought Beatrice International Foods for $985 million, and created TLC Beatrice, a snack food, beverage and grocery store conglomerate that was the largest black-owned and black-managed business in the country. At its peak in 1996, TLC Beatrice had sales of $2.2 billion and was No. 512 on Fortune magazine's list of 1,000 largest companies.

Renaming school No. 419 was the last step in creating new schools out of the former Northern High. The school was split into three smaller schools to curb student violence. The other two are W.E.B. DuBois Senior High School and Dr. Samuel L. Banks High School.

In Baltimore County

Westowne Elementary expected to reopen today

CATONSVILLE -- Westowne Elementary School was closed for a second day yesterday because of a water main break nearby.

The break occurred Monday morning and pupils were sent home for the day at 1 p.m. School officials expect Westowne to reopen this morning.

Westchester teacher named state citizenship educator

CATONSVILLE -- Anne Puckett, a music teacher at Westchester Elementary School, has been named Maryland Citizenship Educator of the Year by the Dr. Charles B. Frank Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 219.

Puckett will represent Maryland in the national competition for citizenship teacher of the year, which recognizes teachers who promote citizenship and U.S. history and traditions.

The school will honor Puckett at 10 a.m. Feb. 21.

School receives $1 million for community center

GLYNDON -- The Jerome G. and Annette S. Zimmerman Foundation Inc. has donated $1 million for the construction of a community center next to Beth Tfiloh Community School at its campus in Glyndon.

The 8,000-square-foot building will be named the Zimmerman Community Center and will be used for social, cultural and educational activities. It will be next to the new lower-school building on the 40-acre campus. The center is expected to be completed by the fall, when the lower school will be moved there.

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