Carroll Digest

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Policy change would help water, sewer customers

The Carroll County commissioners are expected to amend the county water and sewer policy today, adding provisions that would grant financial relief to public utility customers who are dealing with costly leaks. The board has scheduled a public hearing at 10:30 a.m. in the County Office Building.

The changes would authorize the county comptroller to reduce charges stemming from leaks for more than one quarterly billing cycle. Former Comptroller Eugene Curfman requested the change before his retirement last year.

"It usually takes one quarter to discover a leak and another to fix it," said Kimberly A. Millender, county attorney. Several customers, unaware of leaks, have expressed frustration at extremely high bills, officials said.

"These amendments are an attempt to better serve consumers," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich.

Farm preservation effort wins state award

The state Department of Agriculture last month honored the Carroll County Critical Farms Program with its 2004 Vision Award - the Secretary's Award for Sustained Excellence.

"The program fits into the land conservation category and is being considered for a national award," said Bill Powel, Carroll's preservation program administrator. Carroll has long been a national leader in farmland preservation, having saved more than 45,000 acres from development.

The county established the Critical Farms program in 1993 to provide prospective farmers with interim preservation funds that would help them buy agricultural land. Once the land is purchased, the farm owner can apply for preservation funds from the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation - money that is awarded on a competitive bidding process.

"This is just another preservation tool we can offer," said Ralph Robertson, county agricultural land preservation specialist. "We consider every farm critical."

Mount Airy installs new water tank

Mount Airy installed a new, 1 million-gallon water tank yesterday that will more than double the town's storage capacity, officials said. The new tank off Century Drive joins two others with capacities of 500,000 and 200,000 gallons, said Barney Quinn, the town engineer.

"It's very needed," he said.

The 65-foot-diameter white tank, mounted on a 125-foot-tall concrete pillar, has the town's name in black on two sides, Quinn said. It is expected to be in service in May.

Sentences suspended in Gamber barn fire

A 65-year-old Gamber-area farmer received suspended sentences yesterday in Carroll County Circuit Court after being found guilty of malicious burning and making a false insurance claim after a fire at his barn in April 2003.

John Wesley Nickoles Jr. of the 3700 block of Nicholson Road was initially listed as the victim in the 9:45 a.m. blaze, which was ignited by a 250-watt heat lamp against a bale of hay in a tractor inside the barn, according to the fire marshal's report in the court file. Nickoles, who said he bought the lamp to thaw a frozen pipe, later was charged with five counts, including second-degree arson.

A $25,000 Belarus tractor that was in the barn had just been paid off and was insured, according to the report, and a smaller tractor also was stored inside, along with about 100 small bales of hay.

Judge Thomas F. Stansfield found Nickoles guilty after an agreed-upon statement of facts by Deputy State's Attorney David P. Daggett. The judge imposed a suspended five-year sentence for making a false insurance application, a 10-year felony, and a three-year suspended sentence for malicious burning, a misdemeanor.

Nickoles had no criminal record and received no money on his insurance claim, Daggett said.

The wood-and-metal barn was erected to replace others that were destroyed in 1994 and 2001, according to the report.

Randallstown man faces drug charges

A 24-year-old Randallstown man was charged with possessing an illegal hallucinogenic mushroom after a Carroll County sheriff's deputy checked three people loitering at an Eldersburg shopping center, authorities said yesterday.

The deputy was patrolling near Eldersburg Plaza in the 1400 block of Liberty Road about 9 p.m. Tuesday when he saw three people at the rear of the shopping center, said Maj. Thomas H. Long, a sheriff's spokesman. One of them, Zachary S. Bellows of Church Lane, was charged with possession with intent to distribute psilocybin and possession of paraphernalia.

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