Blast from the Past

January 30, 2008

From the week of Jan. 27, 1958

The discovery that the county courthouse was unlocked Friday night caused a minor furor in two law enforcement agencies during the night when tracks were found leading to the unlocked door.

Patrolman Robert Grimsley discovered the rear door unlocked about 3:55 a.m. during a routine check of the door. Fresh auto tracks were found in the alley leading to the Sheriff's office with footprints in the snow leading to the Sheriff's office.

Accompanied by Patrolman Paul Wigfield, Grimsley checked all offices from the basement to the attic and found that everything was apparently in order. Some of the office doors were locked and officials in those offices were asked to make a check of equipment. Everything was found to be in order at the Sheriff's office.


Police report that while it is not unusual to find the doors of downtown business places left unlocked, this was the first time the court house was found unlocked.

Fifty Washington and Frederick county farmers, suspicious that last summer's drought was caused by somebody fooling with Mother Nature, yesterday pleaded with state lawmakers to ban cloud-seeding in Western Maryland.

"We're here for the farmer and the small people with a garden," Jack Downin told a Senate committee. "If you had a house with nothing but a yard, your lawnmower was in just as good shape last fall as it was in June because you didn't mow no grass.

"It's not the end of the world yet. We're all strong people and we'll make it," said Downin, a farmer. "But if there's any way you all can help us, we'd sure appreciate it. All we want is some help."

The farmers had traveled to Annapolis to show support for a bill introduced by Sens. Victor Cushwa, D-Washington and Allegany; Edward P. Thomas, R-Frederick and Washington; and John N. Bambacus, R-Allegany and Garrett. The bill would ban weather-modification by cloud-seeding from airplanes or ground generators in Maryland's four westernmost counties.

While nobody has proved that anybody is seeding the clouds to change the weather, the farmers are convinced that somebody's experiments are responsible for a drought that cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in crop damage.

The Cushwa-Thomas-Bambacus bill would make it a crime to fool with the weather. Anybody convicted of doing it in Western Maryland would face up to five years in jail, or a $50,000 fine, or both.

Maryland legislators passed a law in 1969 to ban cloud-seeding statewide. The law was repealed in 1971.

From the week of Jan. 27, 1983

Washington County's local share of Maryland income taxes may be higher than expected this fiscal year, despite the area's high unemployment rate.

Finance Director Jim Young told the County Commissioners this week they can expect about $415,000 more this fiscal year primarily because those people who are working are making more money than they did in the past.

But he said the rate of increase annually in income tax revenue is slowing. "So you can see the unemployment situation is starting to take hold," he said.

The county's tax share is based on a percentage of an individual's tax bill.

But the jump in revenue is being offset by a large decrease in the amount of money the county expected from its investments this year, Young said. As a result, he said the government will collect only about $140,000 more this year from all revenue sources than it thought.

Next year, the county can expected $442,120 more revenue from all sources, primarily because newly-developed properties and just-purchased business equipment will increase the property tax base. The county expects to receive $38.4 million total this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

But if expenses keep rising at last year's pace, that wouldn't be enough to fund the same services as this year, the figures indicate. This year's budget is $1.2 million higher than the previous fiscal year.

- Compiled by Joshua Hughes

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