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Prize tomatoes, an alleged vendetta and a generous gift

June 18, 2008|By BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebook:

· One of the big highlights of my recent week off took place Saturday, June 14, at Hagerstown's City Market.

It's always a pleasure to visit the market, but on that day, vendors weren't the only ones bringing smiles to market customers.

As part of a Herald-Mail promotion of my garden blog (an online column), we gave away 100 tomato transplants on a first-come, first-served basis.

The plants were the Jet Star variety, an indeterminate (tall vine as opposed to bush-style) plant that should yield fruit in 72 days. It also resists fusarium and verticillium wilt.


The plants were grown by Bing-aman's, a regular market vendor. If you did not get one, however, you may still enter The Herald-Mail's "Big Tomato Contest."

The rules are simple: Grow the biggest possible tomato you can - with any variety you choose - and bring it to the market at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30.

The biggest tomato will win $50, the second-largest $25 and the third-place winner will get $10.

The only requirement is that the winning tomatoes be in edible condition. Prizes will be paid that day, but no entries can be accepted ahead of time at The Herald-Mail.

The point of this is to get you to read my blog, which I began in March. If you haven't done so, there are a number of "posts" there that you can catch up on.

To read them, go to

Like it or not, please leave a comment. I'll never improve if no one tells me where I'm going wrong.

· Though it's a little bit late to comment on Hagerstown Councilwoman Kelly Cromer's allegation that there is a police "vendetta" against her because of her stand against city employees taking vehicles home, I will anyway.

Cromer first raised the take-home issue in February, then followed it up in May, after The Herald-Mail's request for information about the cost the city incurred to provide employees with vehicles for fiscal year 2006-07 and to date for fiscal year 2007-08.

Almost a month later, the city's response was, "There is no document that satisfies your request."

A request for information about how much money was budgeted in fiscal year 2006-07 and fiscal year 2007-08 for the take-home vehicle program drew the same reply.

Now I understand that agencies don't have to do a new analysis in response to a request, but either city officials knew or didn't know how much the program cost. Last week, the council received cost figures and found that in 2007, the cost was $79,991.16, up from $58,348.63 in 2006.

Then this past Saturday we learned that Cromer had been pulled over on May 26 for allegedly speeding on South Walnut Street. She could not immediately produce the vehicle's registration and said her driver's license was in her luggage, the whereabouts of which was unclear.

According to the police report, Cromer offered to get the license, if the officer didn't know who she was.

And despite getting off with just a warning, she said the traffic stop could be construed as evidence of a vendetta against her by police and other officials over the take-home vehicle program.

Cromer won praise aplenty from citizens who applauded her effort to cut costs. Now the tide of public opinion is turning, perhaps because most of us know that, in this situation, most motorists would get a ticket, not a warning.

What shouldn't be forgotten is that the cost of the take-home program increased by more than $20,000 in just one year. At this point, Cromer might not be anyone's choice to look into this, but someone should.

This Saturday, June 21, Washington Square United Methodist Church, 538 Washington Ave., Hagerstown, will hold a car and truck show to benefit Alivia Koontz, a 4-year-old Hagerstown girl with a heart condition.

The show, sponsored by Scott's Speed Shop and Autocare Elite, will benefit the Alivia Koontz Medical Expense Fund.

A donor who wishes to remain anonymous has sent me $500 for that purpose. Thanks for your generosity.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail

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