Foster children's lawyers to get state settlement

The state Department of Human Resources has agreed to pay a $367,534 settlement to attorneys who represent foster children served by the Baltimore City Department of Social Services.

Attorneys Mitchell Y. Mirviss and Gary S. Posner said yesterday that they will use the money to hire Rhonda Lipkin, deputy director of the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, as a full-time monitor to make sure social services officials abide by a long-standing consent decree. DSS has a history of failing to comply with the decree, which sets standards for care.

Lipkin said she will begin her new job Aug. 1. She will work under the umbrella of the Public Justice Center in Baltimore, which provides legal aid to low-income and underrepresented groups.

The settlement, which was approved by the state Board of Public Works yesterday, covers a billing period of June 2002 to November 2004.


State gives final approval for town center project

The state Board of Public Works gave final approval yesterday for a $220 million town center at the Owings Mills Metro parking lot, a much-delayed project that boosters hope will create a town center in a part of Baltimore County that has been transformed by growth in the past two decades.

Praising the project for concentrating development around a mass transit hub, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp approved a lease and a settlement agreement from a lawsuit that has held up the project for two years.

The center will consist of a main street surrounded by offices, parking garages, stores, apartments or condos, a hotel, the county's largest public library and a community college branch.

"It's a great example of smart growth," Kopp said. "There's already been a tremendous investment in the area, and it really does focus living, focus transit and focus housing."

County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said the development is one of the most important economic development projects in the county and will generate 5,300 jobs and provide $6 million a year in tax revenue.

"It's a long time coming," said Smith, who as a county councilman helped designate Owings Mills as a growth center in the early 1980s. "I think this is going to create a jewel in the Baltimore area."

Baltimore County Economic Development Director David S. Iannucci said he expects a groundbreaking for one of the garages before the end of the year, with the library, community college and main street taking shape within three to five years. The project will take 10 to 15 years to complete, he said.

- Andrew A. Green


$2.75 million state grant for maritime park OK'd

The Maryland Board of Public Works approved yesterday a $2.75 million grant to help develop a Fells Point maritime park honoring Frederick Douglass and other African-American shipbuilders.

Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park, at Caroline and Thames streets, is scheduled to open in January, officials with the Maryland Department of General Services said.

The park, being developed by the Living Classrooms Foundation, will include a museum and classroom building adjacent to a restored century-old sugar warehouse.


2 state troopers injured in accident on Route 100

Two Maryland state troopers were injured yesterday after a driver lost control of an SUV and it struck their patrol car on the shoulder of Route 100 in Hanover.

Troopers Amy Coleman, 33, and Michael Sauer, 23, had pulled over a Honda in a routine traffic stop about 2 p.m. when their cruiser was struck by a 1997 Ford Explorer driven by Dustin Lee Gaisiorowski, 23, of Glen Burnie, police said.

The impact caused the police car to slam into the rear of the Honda, which in turn hit Sauer, who was standing by the driver's-side window.

Sauer, who graduated from the Maryland State Police Academy several weeks ago, and Gaisiorowski were taken by helicopter to Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Sauer was treated and released. Gaisiorowski was reported in noncritical condition yesterday evening.

Coleman, an eight-year veteran of the state police, was in the passenger seat of the patrol car at the time of the accident. She was taken to North Arundel Hospital. Passengers in the Honda were not reported injured.

The accident is under investigation.

- Annie Linskey


Teen who shot girl by accident is convicted of endangerment

A Woodbine man who injured a teenage girl when he accidentally shot her with a handgun he grabbed out of his father's safe has been convicted of reckless endangerment.

Benjamin M. Allen, 18, of the 800 block of Iron Rail Court was convicted Tuesday after a one-day bench trial before visiting Judge Daniel Moylan in Howard County Circuit Court. Sentencing is scheduled June 23, when Allen could receive a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

On July 6, Allen took out the gun to show 16-year-old Katie Lea Weyer of Dayton and three 18-year-old friends at his home after they swam in a pool on the property, according to police.

Weyer was standing in a first-floor bathroom when she was hit in the chest by a .22-caliber bullet fired accidentally by Allen, who was standing in the home's office, according to police.

- Laura Cadiz


Charter riverboat wins city's OK for use of dock

Despite significant opposition from a Fells Point community group and a state delegate who represents the waterfront neighborhood, the city's Board of Estimates yesterday unanimously permitted a private charter boat operator to use a public pier as its permanent dock.

The Black Eyed Susan, a Mississippi-style riverboat, will begin its three-year lease to dock at the Broadway Pier "as fast as possible," said boat owner J. Leonard Schleider.

City officials said Schleider has agreed to pay $1,000 per month through November. For each of the lease's remaining two years, Schleider must pay a percentage of his gross annual revenues from ticket sales and charters or an amount between $20,000 and $25,000, whichever is greater.

Representatives from the Fells Point Task Force and Democratic Del. Peter A. Hammen opposed Schleider's request to dock on the pier's west side because they claim it will obscure harbor vistas. Opponents argued unsuccessfully that the boat's paddlewheel rear is not suited to Fells Point's historic character and that permanent use of a public pier by a private enterprise is not permitted under pier policy.

In addition, task force spokesman Robert C. Keith argued that his group approved the plan two years ago when the boat was 88 feet long. It is now 111 1/2 feet long. He said the five-member board's three elected officials - Mayor Martin O'Malley, City Council President Sheila Dixon and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt - have failed to safeguard the neighborhood's interests.

- Doug Donovan


Threatening note left on door of attorney general's house

Baltimore police are investigating a threatening note left at the home of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. that was written on the program for the funeral of an African-American developer who died recently.

The attorney general found the program for Robert Lee Clay's funeral on his front doorknob June 4, Curran spokesman Kevin Enright said. The note written on the program contained a racial epithet.

Clay was found dead of a gunshot wound in his Reservoir Hill office May 16. The state medical examiner has yet to announce whether the shooting was a homicide, a suicide or an accident.

Clay was a pioneering black businessman and a political figure who often butted heads with Curran's son-in-law, Mayor Martin O'Malley. Clay's daughter said her father had received threats shortly before his death that referred to a flier, written by Clay, that questioned the mayor's leadership.

-- Doug Donovan


Board rejects agreement between charter school, union

The Anne Arundel County school board rejected yesterday an agreement between the county teachers' union and a planned Annapolis charter school, but the school still plans to hold a summer program next month.

KIPP Harbor Academy, which plans to target under-performing students, needs board approval to pay its three teachers 20 percent more to work an extended school day and week. But school board members disagreed with a proposed grievance procedure and a requirement that all teachers pay a portion of union dues.

School organizers said they plan to return to the bargaining table. Teachers union leaders say they don't know how to change the agreement to satisfy the board, which they say hasn't sent a representative to negotiations.

To open next month, KIPP officials said they plan to pay their teachers according to the existing teacher contract.

However, Superintendent Eric J. Smith opposed allowing the school to open next month before approving a contract for the rest of the school year.

- Liz F. Kay


Cummings asks for extension of comment on MTA proposal

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings called on Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan yesterday to extend for 30 days the public comment period on a sweeping proposal to restructure the Baltimore region's bus routes.

Cummings, a Democrat whose 7th District includes much of Baltimore, told Flanagan in a letter that the Maryland Transit Administration is not giving bus customers enough time to review the proposal. The comment period for the core system ends tomorrow, while the MTA will continue taking comments on proposed changes to commuter routes until June 24.

"Many citizens -- particularly in my district -- rely on the MTA bus service as their primary form of transportation and it is essential that these citizens be given adequate opportunity to comment on proposed changes to a public service," Cummings wrote.

The restructuring, scheduled to be implemented Oct. 16, has been the subject of public hearings this week, including a Monday session downtown at which it was met with opposition.

Cummings' call for an extended comment period follows a request from Mayor Martin O'Malley and Baltimore-area county leaders for 60 more days to review the changes -- the most extensive proposed for the system in three decades.

Flanagan said he would take Cummings' recommendation under consideration. He said the MTA would have to determine whether extending the comment period would leave enough time to let the agency implement its proposals before winter.

The hearings continue today with sessions from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Coppin State University and the Dundalk campus of the Community College of Baltimore County.

-- Michael Dresser

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