Tim's 2008 year in review

January 03, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND
(Page 3 of 5)

More confusion presented itself in June, when the Ogden EZ To Use Big Book telephone directory printed 12,500 unlisted numbers that were accidentally sold by Verizon. This corporate gaffe "shows a blatant, reckless disrespect of the customer, which cannot be tolerated," according to a statement issued by Allegheny Power. Sensing votes for the taking, the Washington County legislative delegation introduces a bill that would prevent companies from making mistakes. Anger among Washington County residents turns to joy, however, when they learn that Valley Mall will be home to a new Golden Corral.

In other economic development news, construction plans for yet another warehouse are announced, this one for the Kellogg Corporation. This might open up employment opportunities for Hagerstown, depending on whether early retirement or relocation packages are accepted by Battle Creek, Mich., residents Snap, Crackle and Pop.

Celebration turns to controversy, however, when Hagerstown City Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer is stopped for speeding and asks the officer, "Do you know who I am?" Even though she does not receive a ticket, she accuses police of waging a vendetta against her because she has questioned the propriety of city employees driving city-owned cars home at night. Police respond by questioning whether city council members are allowed to take their brains home at night.


Meanwhile, in an attempt to make amends, Verizon recalls phone books containing unlisted numbers, offering in return a $5 gift card good at any of the three Tandoori restaurants in Bangladesh.


Perhaps because of the events of June, in July the Washington County Liquor Board issues a ruling allowing patrons of The Maryland Theatre to drink in their seats.

Liquor sales skyrocket as theater-goers learn that City Hall has spent $48,000 this year on a congressional lobbyist who, to date, has produced zero dollars in sought-after federal grants. Embarrassed, but defiant, council members point out that this sum is equal to the amount of grant money our own elected members of Congress were able to produce. Councilman Lewis C. Metzner says that the city will have to "answer to the taxpayers" if the lobbyist hasn't produced results by year's end. Which, if you're counting, would be right about now.

Fortunately, there was a diversion from more serious events when a black bear led police officers on a wild chase in Williamsport. The critter finally was chased out of town after officers baited it with a glazed doughnut. Later, police are seen at Dunkin' Donuts ordering three dozen "bear abatement kits."

But The Maryland Theatre and Williamsport were not the only entertainment venues in the news; a customer of Mitzi's Gentleman's Club sued after he claimed to having been assaulted by a stripper. In response, the Washington County Liquor Board voted to allow drinking in courtrooms -- by the judge.

But the legal system isn't the only thing that needs a drink. Even though the city has been shut out of important grants benefiting water, highway and cultural projects, the national Humane Society is able to offer a $130,000 grant to build a crosswalk under U.S. 40 at Greenbrier State Park for box turtles. Officials immediately apply for another grant for a much-needed crosswalk at Mitzi's, where an overflow crowd of guys is lining up for a chance at being attacked by a stripper.


The grants continue in August, when the County Commissioners award $10,000 to a local Little League team that made the national playoffs. The move is criticized by other local youth leagues, which threaten to have the commissioners' phone numbers published in the Ogden EZ To Use Big Book.

In other youth news, the celebrated Rockland Woods Elementary School opens to students, but no students appear after a change in school board transportation policy requires kids to poke their legs through the floorboards and pedal the bus like Fred Flintstone.

And speaking of cartoons, Hagerstown City Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer is cleared of traffic-stop wrongdoing by a county ethics panel, but the Fraternal Order of Police rescinds her associate membership in the group. When asked by the newspaper about the FOP action, Cromer says, "Don't talk to me. I will never say anything to you ever again. Don't talk to me." News reporters in three states pop champagne corks.

Tensions filter into the school system as well, as the board denies multiple requests from families seeking a variance in the board's transportation policy. Parents had challenged the section providing that the school system no longer will run buses, but will transport kids by way of Meals on Wheels.

Further insults were in the news after several correctional employees at the Maryland Correctional Training Center were pulled out of line and subjected to strip searches.

More important matters are on the minds of City Council members, however, as they vote to spend $200 to refurbish a sundial.

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