Schools request raises eyebrows
Even as county leaders brace for dwindling county and state revenues, the Anne Arundel County Board of Education is asking for $189 million for school construction and renovations, nearly $60 million more than the County Council funded last year.
The school system's request sets the stage for another fiscal struggle with the county government and is virtually certain to result in substantial cuts, considering that next year's financial forecast is gloomier than the one the county wrangled with last spring, two council members told the board at a meeting last week.
"You have a tough job -- we understand that -- and so do we. We can't do everything for everyone," said C. Edward Middlebrooks, vice chairman of the County Council, who attended the meeting with colleague Cathleen M. Vitale. "You all know that I don't favor passing massive tax increases to our citizens to fund these projects. But maybe there are some other revenues that can be freed up."
For the 2009 fiscal year, which will start July 1, the school board unanimously approved Wednesday the capital budget, a wish list of 39 items. The board said the request reflects growing needs, including a $1.5 billion maintenance backlog, outdated open-space schools that need walls and partitions between classrooms and renovations to accommodate state-required all-day kindergarten classrooms.
Anne Arundel section, Friday
DNR to remove shallow oyster reef
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will spend about $40,000 to remove a concrete oyster reef that contractors placed in waters near the Magothy River that are too shallow to support it.
The reef, which was planted in Sillery Bay near Gibson Island two months ago, is part of the agency's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay's struggling oyster beds by growing oysters on artificial surfaces.
For decades, the state planted oysters on shells dredged from the bay but is now using concrete because shells are scarce.
"This is one of the few reefs that we have put out in tributaries," said DNR fisheries director Howard King. "We put it in an area that we really should not have."
Maryland section, Tuesday
Man, 19, charged in hoax phone call
The frantic phone call had the potential to be deadly dangerous: After discovering that his wife had cheated on him, a Marine who had served three tours of duty in Iraq shot a hostage and barricaded himself in a Severna Park home. He wanted flak jackets sent to all troops in Iraq and demanded to speak with the president. He said he was ready to die if police didn't comply.
After closing roads and bringing in a special-response team, police determined that the elaborate scenario was a hoax. At the home where five hostages were supposedly being held by four disgruntled Iraq veterans, a couple who answered the phone said everything was fine, according to charging documents.
Anne Arundel County police said that the Sept. 8 call was one of a series of hoax calls alleged to have been made by at least one man over the past month. Christopher Allen Scheibe, 19, of the 600 block of Jumpers Hole Road in Severna Park, has been charged with reckless endangerment, making threats of arson, making false statements to police officers and false statements involving destructive devices, and telephone misuse.
He could face a maximum penalty of 28 years in prison and more than $25,000 in fines, and was being held at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center on $750,000 bail.
Maryland section, Thursday
Hospital CEO to resign next year
James R. Walker announced that he will retire next year as chief executive officer of Baltimore Washington Medical Center -- 38 years and a day after he went to work at what was then a 4-year-old facility called North Arundel Hospital.
Walker oversaw a period of growth. A $117 million, six-story patient tower is under construction and expected to open in about 18 months. It will bring the hospital to 333 beds -- up from 107 beds when he arrived in 1969. He's on his sixth expansion of the emergency department.
He's overseen a change in the hospital's identity. After 35 years as an independent hospital, Walker helped merge it into the University of Maryland Medical System in 2000. And, reflecting the hospital's more expansive view of its reach beyond its Glen Burnie campus, he engineered the name change in 2005 from North Arundel to Baltimore Washington.
And, particularly since the affiliation with University of Maryland, he's added programs, including centers for cancer, diabetes and vascular care.
Business section, Wednesday
Council runs out of time for vote
Democrats and the Leopold administration leveled accusations of filibustering against Republican members of the Anne Arundel County Council, whose objections forced a delay on legislation to ban the dumping of coal ash at new sites last week.
After more than three hours of testimony and deliberations Monday night, the council appeared ready to vote with six minutes to go until midnight, the deadline to consider the emergency bill.
But comments by Council Chairman Ronald C. Dillon Jr., Councilman C. Edward Middlebrooks and Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale -- who voted unsuccessfully moments earlier to delay a vote for two weeks -- took up the rest of the time.
The call for a vote came at 15 seconds after midnight, according to the clock on the clerk's computer. The Republican council members denied filibustering.
The council, which tacked on a "sunset" provision Monday night that would end the ban after one year, will vote on the bill Oct. 1.
Anne Arundel section, Wednesday