Charges Filed After Handgun Displayed In Altercation

OCEAN CITY — An Ellicott City man was arrested on numerous charges, including first-degree assault, after allegedly threatening another man with a locked and loaded handgun on the Boardwalk early Monday morning.

Around 1:40 a.m. on Monday, two OCPD officers were having a conversation with four individuals seated on the curb at 6th Street when they heard a loud commotion coming from the Boardwalk area nearby. When the officers looked toward the Boardwalk, they heard an unidentified voice yell, “Let’s get him,” and “get back here.” The officers then saw an African-American male drop a bicycle near the street end of the Boardwalk and sprint down the ramp to 6th Street.

According to police reports, the victim appeared scared and was looking back over his shoulder as he sprinted away. The officers then observed a Hispanic male running after the victim shouting and screaming expletives. According to police reports, the suspect, later identified as Ivan Lopez, 24, of Ellicott City, appeared angry and screaming at the victim who was running away.

According to police reports, people on the Boardwalk heard the commotion and witnessed the chase and scattered to the north and south away from the 6th Street area in fear. In addition, several people came out on nearby motel balconies when they heard the shouting, threats and observed the chase. The victim ran in the direction of Baltimore Ave. while Lopez ran north behind a T-shirt store on 6th Street.

Lopez was ultimately tracked down and taken into custody. During a search of his person, officers located on Lopez a 9mm Ruger handgun in his front right pocket. Meanwhile, the victim and several others who were on the Boardwalk at the start of the commotion returned to the scene.

The victim told police he was riding his bicycle with several friends when he encountered Lopez and another male on the Boardwalk. The victim told officers the man with Lopez approached him closely as if trying to get a reaction out of him. At that point, a confrontation began and the victim told police he observed Lopez pull out a silver handgun and heard Lopez cock the weapon.

At that point, the victim fled as fast as he could before abandoning the bicycle and fled on foot down 6th Street. The victim told police he only returned after he saw Lopez was in custody to make sure his friends were okay. Two other witnesses provided similar accounts of the incident.

As a result, Lopez was charged with first-degree assault, disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment and carrying and wearing a handgun on his person.

Horizons Program Reports First Cohort Of Graduates

The accomplishments of 10 recent high school graduates who participated in the Horizons program at The Salisbury School will be celebrated later this summer. Submitted Photo

SALISBURY – Horizons at The Salisbury School has announced the high school graduation of students from its inaugural class.

On July 15 at 8 a.m., the program will host its annual Horizons Appreciation Breakfast to celebrate the accomplishments of these high school graduates. The breakfast will be held at The Salisbury School, located on Hobbs Road.

In 2003, Horizons accepted its first cohort with the mission to provide low-income students from Wicomico County Public Schools with the best possible program designed to transform the lives of students caught in the achievement gap.

“We recognize that with a healthy and supportive beginning, Wicomico County’s children can also improve their achievement and success in school,” said Dr. Harlan Eagle, Executive Director of Horizons at The Salisbury School. “We’re so proud to have watched these students grow into amazing young people. This year’s event is a celebration of the partnerships with our donors and the successes of all the graduates.”

The 2015 Horizons graduating class is composed of 10 high school students representing three different schools in Salisbury. Referred primarily by Wicomico County Public School teachers, Horizons at The Salisbury School student members are immersed in a six-week summer program and year-round, academic and enrichment curriculum that gives students unparalleled access to mentors, leaders and innovative educational experiences.

Wicomico County graduation ceremonies at their respective high schools are scheduled for May 29-30 at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center. The Horizons students who walked across the stage are Lynesha Graham, Wicomico High School; Leticia Hernandez-Rameriz, Wicomico High School and attending Wor-Wic Community College for General Studies; Miguel Hernandez-Rameriz, Wicomico High School and attending Wor-Wic Community College for General Studies; Kameron Hudson, James M. Bennett and attending Morgan State University to study Business Journalism and Communication; Amira Moore, Wicomico High School and attending Chowan University to study Criminal Justice; KeShawn Ross, Parkside High School and attending Hampton University to study Biology; Ariana Stallings, Wicomico High School and attending Wor-Wic Community College with plans to study Speech Pathology; and Shabreya Trotter, James M. Bennett and attending Salisbury University to study Physical Therapy.

Graduating students who transferred to other high schools are Jamaal King, Bishop O’ Connell High School in Arlington Va. who has received a scholarship to attend Saint Francis University in Lorretto, Pa. and will study Criminal Justice, and Tyrah Washington, Prince George High School in Prince George, Va.

Horizons at The Salisbury School is a transformational, community-centered education program working to close the achievement gap for low-income children, kindergarten through 12th grade, attending Wicomico County Public Schools. In Wicomico County, one out of four children live in poverty. Horizons at The Salisbury School gives students the tools and support that will assist them in becoming successful, confident students who will be college and career ready. A child typically starts at Horizons the summer before entering kindergarten and returns year-after-year through 12th grade. Horizons students gain two-three months of reading and math skills each summer and 96 percent of Horizons students go on to college or other post-secondary training.

 

Holbrook Show Pushed Back Due To Belmont Race

Hal Holbrook

OCEAN CITY — Hal Holbrook’s performance in Ocean City has postponed to July 30 due to a conflict with the highly anticipated Belmont Stakes.

Holbrook is looking forward to bringing his award-winning, one-man play to the Performing Arts Center at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. It’s just not going to be on the originally selected date. A joint statement was released by the artist and the promoter this week explaining the change.

“Due to the conflicting date with the Belmont Stakes and the potential for another Triple Crown winner, Hal Holbrook and Bob Rothermel of TEAM Productions have decided to postpone his performance to July 30,” the statement read.

Rothermel added, “Although ticket sales were steady, I was concerned about how the anticipated media hype regarding the potential for a Triple Crown winner would impact ticket sales in the last few days leading up to the show.”

He added that the “last 10 to 14 days are very important to a show’s success and if we can’t break through the hype about a horse, the show could possibly be negatively impacted. The new date has been selected for the show based upon the availability of the venue and Mr. Holbrook’s schedule.”

All tickets purchased for the original date of June 6 will be honored for the new date of July 30. Ticket holders do not need to exchange them as they will automatically be converted to the new date. Those who cannot make the July 30 date will be able to receive a refund. If seeking a refund, ticket holders are advised to return the tickets to the location where they were purchased. Refunds will be available through June 13. Tickets for the new date of July 30 are available immediately at the Convention Center Box Office and all Ticketmaster locations.

“Mr. Holbrook is truly a living legend who has received countless accolades and awards for not only this show but for his entire body of work. It is an honor to bring him to Ocean City’s Performing Arts Center. This is a once in a lifetime experience,” Rothermel said.

 

 

Governor Slaps Veto On Public Pot Smoking Law

OCEAN CITY — Smoking marijuana in public places, including, for example, the beach or Boardwalk in Ocean City, will likely continue to be a criminal misdemeanor subject to arrest after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan last week vetoed a bill that would have loosened the state laws on weed.

Last year, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation that decriminalized simple possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, making it an offense akin to a traffic citation. The bill made the simple possession a civil citation that could be paid without the threat of court appearances, jail time, probation and permanent marks on the offenders’ records.

However, the bill was fraught with inconsistencies, such as keeping possession of paraphernalia still an arrestable offense while possessing the actual weed was not. A bill introduced this year and ultimately passed by both chambers would make possession of paraphernalia a civil citation similar to the new law governing the possession of 10 grams or less, but the legislation also went as far as too make smoking marijuana in public places or even while driving also a civil citation.

Senate Bill 517 would establish that smoking marijuana in a public place as a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $500. The bill also legalizes the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia by eliminating criminal penalties. During the 2014 session, the General Assembly passed legislation that decriminalized the use and possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, making it a civil offense subject to a fine, and not an arrestable offense with court dates and possible jail time.

The intent of Senate Bill 517 was to correct some oversights in that legislation including possible criminal prosecution for the possession of paraphernalia, but not for the possession of marijuana itself. However, Hogan and his supporters, including Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (R-38C) believes the bill went too far with the decriminalization of smoking marijuana in public places, such as the Boardwalk or beach in Ocean City, along with individuals smoking weed while driving a vehicle.

It was largely the latter that led Hogan to veto the legislation last week. In a letter to Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Hogan outlined his reasons for vetoing the bill.

“With Senate Bill 517, the General Assembly attempts to correct the unintended consequences from last year’s law, but in doing so creates legal uncertainties including the elimination of criminal sanctions for the use of marijuana while operating a vehicle or in a public setting,” Hogan’s letter to Senate President Mike Miller reads. “Smoking marijuana while driving is a serious threat to public safety.”

When the bill was introduced in the House, Carozza was able to get an amendment attached that would make the possession of paraphernalia a civil offense with a citation, while keeping smoking weed in public an arrestable offense. However, the amendment didn’t survive the bill’s final version passed by both the House and Senate.

Carozza said this week local law enforcement and the State’s Attorneys in both Worcester and Wicomico Counties told her that keeping the use of marijuana in a public space as a criminal offense is an effective public safety tool. She said with the power to arrest as opposed to just issuing a citation, local law enforcement can remove those individuals who are smoking weed in a public area. In the alternative, a person who just smoked marijuana in public could be issued a paper citation, then just walk down the Boardwalk a little further and light up again, under an example provided by Carozza.

“I join with local law enforcement and the state’s attorneys to thank Governor Hogan for vetoing Senate Bill 517,” she said. “The governor listened to the concerns of Maryland police chiefs, sheriffs, and state’s attorneys, and by vetoing this bill, the governor put public safety first. Now that the governor has vetoed Senate Bill 517, law enforcement, if they choose to do so, can arrest those individuals who smoke pot in public and have this public safety tool as an option.”

In addition, if Senate Bill 517 became law, state and local law enforcement would be left with no authority to make a traffic stop if they saw someone smoking marijuana while driving, according to Carozza. The Maryland State’s Attorney’s Association, the Maryland Chiefs of Police and the Maryland Sheriff’s Association requested that Governor Hogan veto Senate Bill 517. Carozza said she was prepared to work with those organizations to prevent similar legislation in the future.

“Since we don’t know at this point whether the General Assembly will try to override the governor’s veto when we return to session in January, I plan to continue to work with law enforcement and the state’s attorneys to draft, and if necessary introduce, legislation to keep the use of marijuana in public as a criminal offense. We are safer as a community when these tools are options for our law enforcement.”

For its part, the Ocean City Police Department has been enforcing the marijuana possession law change that took effect last Oct. 1, but with change coming after the busy season, there isn’t a big track record on the number of citations issued. OCPD spokesperson Lindsay Richard said this week the department would not actually arrest those who are smoking in public, keeping in mind that was the intent of the law passed by the Assembly last year. However, she said there have been few if any cases of an individual smoking weed in public. Richard said the OCPD continues to monitor the situation and adapt its policies accordingly.

“The Ocean City Police Department constantly monitors any changes to our state laws, especially regarding marijuana possession and consumption, and we adjust our policies and procedures appropriately,” she said. “As such, in November 2014, we enacted a new policy that reflects the intent of the state legislature with regard to the changes in the law.”

According to Richard, those policy adjustments include issuing citations for possession of paraphernalia and less than 10 grams of marijuana.
“Anyone in possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana who is also in possession of CDS paraphernalia shall be issued a civil citation only for the possession of marijuana, granted that the possession of CDS paraphernalia was the only criminal offense being committed by the person at the time,” she said. “We do not arrest individuals on private property, or on public property, who are possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana and are also in possession of CDS paraphernalia.”

Meanwhile, the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland this week called on state lawmakers to override the governor’s veto. The coalition in a formal statement cited a 32-13 vote in the Senate and an 83-53 vote in the House as proof of statewide support for the legislation.

“Governor Hogan’s decision to veto this widely supported, common sense legislation is baffling,” the statement reads. “An overwhelming majority of Maryland voters do not want citizens subjected to jail time and a lifelong criminal record for simply using marijuana. Their elected officials have stood up for them on this issue twice, and we hope they will do so again by overriding the governor’s veto.”

The coalition said in the statement the governor’s reasoning behind the veto was flawed.

“Governor Hogan’s excuse for opposing the legislation does not hold water,” the statement reads. “Under the proposed law, it would remain entirely illegal to consume marijuana while driving and police would maintain the ability to stop anyone they believed to be engaging in such an activity. Ironically, if Governor Hogan’s veto holds, law enforcement officials will continue to spend time arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana paraphernalia possession instead of spending it on looking for impaired and otherwise dangerous drivers. If the governor’s aim was to keep our roads safe, his veto of Senate Bill 517 was an epic misfire.”

6th Annual Surf Swap Paddleboard Challenge Set For This Weekend

OCEAN CITY — Have an old surf board, stand up paddle board (SUP), wetsuit or other non-motorized water equipment just sitting around collecting dust? Here’s your chance to sell it and have fun at the same time.

On Sunday, May 31, Fager’s Island will be hosting the 6th Annual Surf Swap Paddleboard Challenge. The Ocean City Surf Club is coordinating the surf swap portion of this event and invites anyone interested in selling their used equipment to come out and join the fun, at no cost to individuals looking to sell their equipment.

This is an all-day family event starting with two SUP races at 10 a.m. The races consist of a five-mile Elite race for the competitive and a 2.5-mile recreational race for the less competitive. The course is set up in an easy manner for spectators to watch.  Elite competitors will receive cash prizes. Anyone interested in racing can pre-register at https://paddleguru.com/races/SurfSwapChallenge2015.

SUP demos will be held from 10:30-11:30 a.m. and are open to anyone interested in learning more about the sport.

The surf swap will begin at 11 a.m. This will be set up on the beach portion of the restaurant. Those interested in selling their equipment do not have to be there the entire day as long as they provide their contact information and rock bottom price to those running the swap. Contact Sandi Smith at Sandis@mdcoastalbays.org if you are interested in selling your equipment to insure a setup location.

A children’s race will be held at noon.  The cost is $10 and boards will be provided.

There will be a full day of entertainment and vendors as well as great food and drink specials. Partial proceeds from this event will be donated to the MCBP program, a program dedicated to protecting the five bays behind Ocean City and Assateague.

 

 

Reminders Issued With Hurricane Season’s Arrival; Online Tool Offers OC Evacuation Zone Information

Among those in attendance at yesterday’s Hurricane Preparedness News Conference were, from left, Ocean City Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald, MEMA Executive Director Clay Stamp, National Weather Service Meteorologist Bill Sammler, Delmarva Power Senior Public Affairs Manager Jim Smith, Worcester County Emergency Services Director Fred Webster and American Red Cross of Delmarva Executive Director Pat Delaney. Photo by Shawn Soper

OCEAN CITY — With the arrival of the official hurricane season next week, state and local emergency service providers along with Delmarva Power officials this week hammered home the importance of residents and visitors to be prepared and engaged.

The 2015 hurricane season officially begins on Monday, June 1 and runs through Nov. 1. Meteorologists are predicting a “well below average” hurricane season this year in the Atlantic, with seven tropical storms predicted, three of which could become hurricanes. With a handful of notable exceptions, most recently the devastating Hurricane Sandy in 2012, many named storms pass by the Ocean City area with little more than high winds, beach erosion and flooding in certain low-lying areas, but officials on Thursday warned, despite the long-term predictions for this season, the next one could be the next Sandy and residents and visitors should prepare for that possibility.

One of the key takeaways from Thursday morning’s press conference with state and local emergency management service providers and Delmarva Power officials was a new program offered by the Town of Ocean City that allows residents and visitors to determine exactly what zone and division they are located. Using a variety of factors, Ocean City officials have created an interactive map of the resort designating areas more susceptible to storm impacts, and by association, evacuations, than others.

The resort is essentially divided into four geographic divisions from the south end of town to the Delaware line, and within each of those divisions are various flood inundation zones. In major storm events, as in the past, there are times when the entire resort is evacuated. With the new division and zone maps, there might be times in the future when specific divisions and zones are at higher risk and need to be evacuated.

“We can’t emphasize enough the importance of knowing your zone and division,” said Ocean City Communications Director Jessica Waters “If a hurricane or natural disaster threatens the area, an evacuation order may be issued. Because of life safety concerns and property damage caused during a disaster or other unusual occurrence, specific properties, multiple locations or even the entire city may require evacuation. Knowing your zone and division will make you aware if and when you have to evacuate. Your zone and division are determined by two variables, property location and vulnerability to flood inundation.”

Waters said residents should be aware of their zones and divisions, but stressed the importance of making the information readily available to the transient population that visits the resort. The interactive map is available at www.oceancitymd.gov/knowyourzone  and clicking over the location will tell residents and visitors exactly what zone and division they are in.

“Because the term ‘low-lying area’ can be vague, the new zones help residents and property owners have a clear understanding of their flood vulnerability,” she said. “It’s important to remember that just because you haven’t experienced a flood in the past doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. We’re encouraging those that live here to know their zones and divisions, and those that rent properties or run lodging establishments to make sure their guests are aware of the zone and division of their location.”

Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Executive Director Clay Stamp, former director of emergency services in Ocean City, said on Thursday despite the long-range forecast for the 2015 season, local residents and visitors need to remain alert and vigilant.

“While the last two hurricane seasons have been relatively quiet, we all remember the devastation from Hurricane Sandy in 2013, especially in the New York City area and on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore,” said Stamp. “It’s important to always be prepared because even in a quiet hurricane season, just one hurricane making landfall in our area can be devastating.”

Stamp said with the proliferation of social media, cell phone apps and a bevy of other outlets, disseminating important information is easier than ever.

“Today is the day to become educated,” he said. “Have a plan and become engaged. We have never been in a better position with regards to access to information than we are today.”

Ocean City Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald said it is up to the citizens to become engaged with their emergency services providers and utility companies in the event of a storm or other disaster.

“Bad things can happen sometimes and the community has a responsibility to work with its government and its emergency service providers,” he said. “We come back here every year with the same message. Have a plan because citizens need to be involved.”

National Weather Service Warning Coordinator Meteorologist Bill Sammler warned after several close calls and near misses, residents and visitors often become apathetic to pending storm warnings.

“My biggest concern is complacency,” he said. “The latest forecast just this week predicted a less-than-average hurricane season, but there isn’t always a correlation between the forecast and what actually happens during the season. We might only have six or eight named storms all year, but we never know which one of those might be a big one. The best thing to do is ignore the seasonal forecast and prepare as if this year is going to be the year.”

Worcester County Emergency Services Director Fred Webster agreed complacency is often a challenge, particularly with the visitors to the local area.

“People come here to unwind and relax, but they have to do so with a certain level of awareness,” he said. “We’ll do our part and remain in constant contact with our state and local partners along with Delmarva Power, but we need our citizens and visitors to be aware and utilize the information provided.”

American Red Cross of Delmarva Executive Director Pat Delaney hammered home the importance of preparedness.

“The citizens need to take ownership and have their own plan,” he said. “By taking a few easy actions like making an emergency kit and a family plan, you can prepare for hurricanes and other emergencies. Even if you took action to prepare last hurricane season, it’s important that you revisit and update your evacuation plan and check your kit for expired items. At the moment, I’m here, my wife is at work and our kids are at school. Have a plan to reconnect in the event of an emergency.”

Finally, Delmarva Power officials said they have plans in place for potential outages and constantly drill on how to restore power in the event of a storm.

“Despite the early prediction of a less active season, it is essential that all of us remain vigilant and be prepared for hurricane season,” said Delmarva Power Senior Public Affairs Manager Jim Smith. “We want our customers to know that we are committed to an emergency response system that makes safety a priority, restores power as quickly as possible and provides customers with information on how to prepare for and deal with weather-related outages.”

Just as citizens are encouraged to have a plan, Smith said Delmarva Power is constantly making improvements to prevent or at least limit outages during emergencies.

“We also believe that preventative maintenance is essential in reducing the potential of service interruptions caused by stormy weather,” he said. “We plan to invest more than $1 billion over the next several years to upgrade our electric infrastructure. We’ve done that already here in Ocean City with the major transmission reliability project we completed last year.”

Two More Ocean City Hotel Projects Gain Approval

Two More

OCEAN CITY – Site plans for two more brand-name hotels within two miles of each other in Ocean City were approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission last week.

The first will be the final phase of the redevelopment at the 45th Street On The Bay, formerly known as 45th Street Village. A five-story, 120-room hotel to include a small retail area and outdoor dining will be built where the last row of the former village stands on the southernmost side of the property.

The hotel will be set back from Coastal Hwy. by at least 60 feet, which will serve as additional parking. There will also be parking provided under the building.

The commission discussed the number of discounted parking spaces, as the 45th Street development has grown into a mixed-use project with the existing retail and restaurant and now plans for the hotel.  With the addition of the hotel parking, the site plan meets parking requirements with a total of 321 spaces.

The hotel’s site plan includes the existing banquet space above Shallow Waters Restaurant, which is located to the west of the proposed hotel. Ocean City’s code allows for a 50-percent reduction in the required number of parking spaces for the banquet space as well as the restaurant space inside of the hotel.

“The code says mixed-use parking will not all be used at the same time, so they give a reduction to encourage more commercial development,” Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith said. “The assumption is they will have adequate parking based on the mixed-use of the property. Not everybody comes at the same time for the same use.”

Once the parking was clarified, the commission voted 4-0 to approve the site plan with members Peck Miller and Palmer Gillis recused and Joel Brous absent.

Keith Iott of Iott Architecture and Engineering was not available this week to comment on the potential hotel brand and when construction will take place. An approved site plan grants the developer 18 months to begin construction.

The next site plan up for approval was a Home 2 Suites by Hilton to be located to the west of the 67th Street Town Center. The five-story, 100-room hotel will be located off between the town center complex and Sunset Island in an area currently used as parking.

The hotel will be built on the northernmost side of the property with parking being located off of 67th Street and partially under the building. The site plan included the required number of 100 parking spaces.

“The hotel will cater to the midtown. It is becoming popular, the number one growing brand in the Hilton family,” Jeff Thaler of Atlantic Planning, Development & Design, Inc. said of Home 2 Suites by Hilton. “Hilton is excited about expanding into Ocean City. There are 120 now in the United States that have just opened in the past couple years. It is the most popular franchise that franchisees are looking to open right now.”

According to Thaler, Home 2 Suites by Hilton is a prototype hotel that is required to be built to specifications. The design is for a social hotel with a pool and outdoor deck as well as a fresco patio off the lobby.

Construction is slated to start in September or October with a completion date in 2017.

Without discussion, the commission voted 5-0 to approve the site plan with Miller recused and Brous absent.

 

Berlin’s $17.1M Budget Includes No Increases For Property Owners

BERLIN – Berlin residents face no increased costs for municipal services in the budget proposed this week by town officials.

On Tuesday, the Mayor and Council introduced a $17.1 million budget for the coming fiscal year. The budget is 11 percent higher than that of FY 2015 but includes no increases for residents.

“As has been our course for several years, I believe the overall result of the FY 2016 proposed budget enables the Town of Berlin to maintain a financially stable budget with continued incremental improvements in municipal services,” Mayor Gee Williams said, “while allowing the town to continue to invest in infrastructure and property to provide permanent benefits to the community in the future.”

The proposed budget includes general fund expenditures of $5.1 million, an increase of 10 percent over the current year.

The town’s electric fund budget for FY 2016 is $5.5 million. Williams said a new purchase power agreement had enabled the town to decrease the budget by $147,241.

The town’s water, sewer and stormwater budgets are all proposed to increase in the coming year. The water budget is up 16 percent at $1.1 million while the sewer budget has increased by 18 percent. Much of that, Williams said, was because of an increase in revenue from special connection fees the town is expecting from upcoming developments.

The town’s stormwater budget, which has been growing through the influx of fees and grants, is set at $2.1 million in FY 2016. The budget has increased steadily since the department’s creation in FY 2013.

Williams said the proposed budget included a three percent salary increase for town employees. Health insurance costs will stay steady for the fifth consecutive year.

Williams credited staff with their efforts during the months-long budgeting process, which he said was more comprehensive than any before.

“More time and possibly more effort have been put into the preparation of this budget than any I have been associated with since first being elected,” he said.

The public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed budget before it is adopted on June 8 at the town’s regular meeting of the mayor and council.