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Stench of home prompts request for tougher laws

February 18, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - A "sickening stench" coming from a Hagerstown home has led state officials to propose tougher nuisance laws.

Last summer, neighbors complained about the smell of trash and cat urine at a West End home.

Several government agencies got involved and took the owner to Washington County District Court, where she was told to clean up her place or be fined $50.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said the fine is not enough of a deterrent.

The county legislative delegation agreed Wednesday to seek tougher penalties.

Under the proposal, someone who doesn't fulfill a Washington County court order can be fined $5 a day. Someone who blatantly ignores an order can be fined $10 a day.

The Washington County Health Department supports the change, according to a letter from Roderick A. MacRae, director of environmental health.

"The intent is to enable the Health Department to resolve certain kinds of issues which have, on occasion, been less than satisfactorily addressed in the past because the current provisions of the nuisance laws do not impose penalties adequate to motivate compliance by all offenders," MacRae's letter says.

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Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Frederick/Washington, said he was concerned that he didn't have a chance to ask local Health Department officials about the proposed law change.

Munson apologized for being late in getting information about the bill to fellow delegation members.

Because the House bill introduction deadline was approaching, Delegation Chairman Robert A. McKee submitted the bill before the delegation had a chance to vote on the matter.

McKee, R-Washington, said the bill could still be withdrawn or amended.

Shank said that in the future he would like all proposed changes to county law to go to the delegation before the session starts. That way, the delegation could ask questions and hold public hearings on the issues.

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