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A look back at the top news stories of 2009 in Washington County Part 2

December 30, 2009

A look back at the top news stories of 2009 in Washington County Part 1

On Wednesday, The Herald-Mail presented some of the top news events of the first half of 2009.

They included:

• A 50-vehicle crash on Interstate 70 in which two people were killed.

• The recapture of a convicted murderer, five days after he escaped from a state prison south of Hagerstown.

• Williamsport High School’s girls track team earning the first-ever state title in the sport for Washington County.

Here is a look at successes, difficulties and other milestones of the second half of 2009.

JULY



6 — Eight employees at the Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown filed a $40 million lawsuit, alleging they were made to crouch naked and cough during strip searches on Aug. 12, 2008. The eight plaintiffs asked for $20 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages.

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22 — As part of $280 million in state cuts, the Maryland Board of Public Works decided to close the Sideling Hill Exhibit Center on Interstate 68 west of Hancock. Restrooms and a kiosk with travel information would remain open. Officials in Western Maryland rallied to find a funding solution, but the effort failed shortly before the planned late-August closing. In December, a state official said the restrooms at the center would close Jan. 5 as part of more state cuts.

31 — The Conococheague 11-12 Little League All-Stars won the Maryland State 11-12 Little League Baseball Tournament by defeating Hughesville, 8-1. The state title was the first for Conococheague since 1961. The All-Stars advanced to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament in Bristol, Conn.

AUGUST



12 — Bursts of shouting punctuated a testy town hall meeting on proposed changes to the nation’s health care system hosted by U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md. Several people in the capacity crowd of about 440 people at Hagerstown Community College’s Kepler Theater peppered Cardin with questions, while others used their microphone time to vent frustrations. Across the country, U.S. senators and representatives, who were considering several health care overhaul bills, ran into large crowds and pointed feedback as they met with the public.

16 — Washington County Board of Education member W. Edward Forrest was charged in Franklin County, Pa., with driving under the influence of alcohol. During sentencing in November, Forrest was ordered to be on probation for one year, after which the charge would be dropped.

19 — Students arriving for the first day of classes for the 2009-10 school year had to wait outside North Hagerstown High School until police determined that an item found inside the building was not a threat. Washington County Public Schools spokesman Richard Wright said the situation was cleared up quickly enough that classes were able to start on time. Police said a North High employee doing a normal walk-through of the school before the students arrived spotted an object in a locker that raised suspicion.

20 — The man who set a Feb. 16 house fire in Hancock that claimed the lives of two girls pleaded guilty in Washington County Circuit Court to two counts of felony murder. Clarence Franklin Meyers, 38, told investigators he set the fire at 220 Old Route 40, where he lived with the girls and their mother, because he wanted to gain sympathy and money from the community.

SEPTEMBER



4 — Two Maryland Correctional Training Center minimum-security inmates escaped while working on the prison grounds south of Hagerstown. Matthew L. Chait and Michael Allen Johnson fled a work detail about 10:15 a.m. They were apprehended Sept. 8 about 65 miles away in a motel room in Ellicott City, Md.

OCTOBER



5 — The Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway suspended its bingo operations after receiving a consultant’s report about the fire company. Jim Kimble, the fire company’s president, declined to elaborate on the report, saying only that it was “time for a change, new faces, new people, more accountability.” Bingo resumed later in the month.

12 — A 45-year-old woman died in a fall from a balcony at the top of one of the Walnut Towers buildings in the first block of South Walnut Street near City Park in Hagerstown. The woman had been locked out of her apartment at Walnut Towers, a Hagerstown Housing Authority building. Investigators said they believed she was trying to climb from a balcony from an eighth-floor common area to the balcony of her apartment in an effort to get in.

12 — The Washington County Health Department reported that a Washington County Hospital patient had died of swine flu, the first death from H1N1 in the county.

23 — Newly released figures showed Washington County’s unemployment rate dipped in September to 9.4 percent, the lowest since January, when it was 9.1 percent.

NOVEMBER



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