— Dave McMillion
Aeronautics school takes off
The story: The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics opened an aircraft aviation maintenance technology school at Hagerstown Regional Airport in April.
The update: The school has about 50 students and, despite some obstacles, is doing fine.
James Mader, director of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, said the local aircraft aviation maintenance technology school teaches students to repair everything from a hot-air balloons to the Space Shuttle.
Since opening in Hagerstown on April 29, the school has had three classes with 50 students, Mader said. It's capable of accommodating 85 students with a fourth class.
"Like any new endeavor, we've hit our speedbumps, but overall we're doing pretty well," Mader said. "Things are going well. They're progressing as expected. We're pretty pleased."
Mader said there's a growing demand for aviation mechanics.
That will continue as "all these Vietnam vets who overwhelm the industry are going to be leaving in droves," he said.
Mader said graduates can earn $12 to $15 an hour as a mechanic at a local airport, or up to $40 an hour if they specialize in a certain discipline.
Students graduate when they successfully complete four semesters, Mader said. Tuition costs about $23,900 and doesn't include the $1,800 for books, tools and supplies.
Gov. Martin O'Malley attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the school in April, touting the facility as a building block that will give people the skills to compete in today's job market.
"We don't have a job shortage, we have a skills' shortage," O'Malley said at the time. "It's not what the other guys are doing to us, it's sometimes what we're not doing to give ourselves the skills to compete."
— Dan Dearth
Wine law boosts Knob Hall
The story: The Maryland General Assembly earlier this year agreed to grant wineries permits to ship wine directly to buyers.
The update: Washington County's only winery has begun shipping its products to Maryland locations, but faces regulations elsewhere.
Knob Hall in Clear Spring, Washington County's only winery, is now shipping its products, thanks to a change in Maryland's law.
The General Assembly agreed earlier this year to grant wineries permits to ship wine directly to buyers.
As of Dec. 18, there were 25 Maryland wineries with permits, including Knob Hall and some in neighboring Frederick County, such as Black Ankle, Elk Run, Orchid Cellar and Sugarloaf Mountain, according to the state comptroller's office.
Another 500 out-of-state wineries were approved, with 42 more permits pending.
Knob Hall owner Dick Seibert, who got his permit in July, said his winery started shipping orders within Maryland this month, including several six-bottle purchases.
Wine clubs — which Seibert said can make up as much as 40 percent of some wineries' business — are starting to buy.
But now comes a thicket of regulations to navigate.
Seibert said that to ship wine out of state, he needs to learn the requirements for each state, and they don't all match.
Some states grant a general license for a winery. Some give a license for each brand. Some insist on an out-of-state company having a resident agent in the state.
Seibert said he has hired a consultant to help.
He is trying to get a permit in Ohio first. Next, will be Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and New York.
Pennsylvania decided in November to start allowing wine shipping to home and business addresses, according to The Associated Press.
Seibert said Knob Hall also has had to work with carriers — UPS, FedEx and FedEx Ground are permitted in Maryland — on the requirements for shipping.
All in all, though, the new stream of commerce has been a plus.
"For the future, it will be an important part of the business," Seibert said.
— Andrew Schotz
Jail safety measures working
The story: Safety measures were put in place at the Washington County Detention Center after an inmate committed suicide in May.
The update: The safety measures seem to be working so far.
Washington County Detention Center officials stepped up safety measures at the facility following the May 24 death of Brayan Alejandro Mora-Castro, Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said.
He said there have been no other attempted suicides at the jail on Western Maryland Parkway since then.
"We've taken actions to replace some of the old sprinkler heads so they don't protrude," Mullendore said earlier this month. "It's definitely improved the safety of the facility."
Mullendore said officials also no longer allow inmates to stay unattended in their cells when meals are served. Officials said that it was during dinner at the jail on May 23 that Mora-Castro, 22, hanged himself with a bed sheet from a sprinkler head. He died the next day at Meritus Medical Center east of Hagerstown.
Mullendore said Mora-Castro was left alone for about 30 minutes because he chose to stay in his cell when the rest of the inmates went to dinner.
Mora-Castro, formerly of 351 S. Burhans Blvd. in Hagerstown, was in the detention center awaiting trial on charges of false imprisonment and second-degree assault.
Mora-Castro also was being held on a detainer on behalf of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, the sheriff's office said.
— Dan Dearth