Throughout the week, members of Stephen Decatur High School’s Class of 1996 have expressed shock and sadness over the loss of a fellow graduate, Billy Smith.
It’s been one week since the 41-year-old Smith, a husband and father of three, was killed in his Greenbelt home by three masked home invaders who escaped from the scene. His eldest son was home at the time and witnessed his dad fighting off the three men. By the time he got into the living room, Kadin Smith told WUSA9, “I just went in the living room, and I see that my dad is trying to fight them off him. But, it already looked like he had been stabbed. I knew he wasn’t going to make it. His last words to me when I was with him, he was trying to grab me and say, ‘I love you,’ but he just couldn’t get it out.”
Smith’s impact on the Greenbelt community was considerable, according to multiple news accounts. Most of his contributions reportedly came through serving as a youth coach at the Greenbelt Recreation Center, among other places. Smith’s mom, Terri, was a longtime educator in the Worcester County school system, serving decades at Buckingham Elementary School. In an interview televised on WUSA9, she showed remarkable grace following a community gathering in her son’s honor last Sunday.
“I am so proud of my son,” she said. “I hurt but you know what there’s joy. The healing process started when I walked through that door and I saw so many people that love and care about my son. That’’s going to help a lot. The pictures that they took and the things that said, I already knew it, but they confirmed it all by just being here.”
In less than a week since his death, the community in Greenbelt as well as here partnered to raise more than $27,000 through a GoFundMe to keep the Smith family on its feet during this horrific time.
It’s sad in 2020 for many residents and businesses to struggle with reliable internet access. Unfortunately, that is the daily reality for many people in Worcester County. The graphic accompanying this week’s story shows about 70 percent of Worcester County not being served by adequate service. In these areas, there may be internet and cellular service, but it’s unreliable and limited.
In reporting on the results of a broadband feasibility study, CTC Technology & Energy President Joanne Hovis told the County Commissioners this week, “You won’t be surprised to see the areas that currently have broadband service in the county are your areas of population density and your major roads… Those red areas are currently unserved with broadband that meets the federal definition. There may be some internet service there but it’s not fast enough to be called broadband under the federal definition.”
CTC estimated there are at least 6,400 homes without the proper broadband infrastructure. Taking into account there were 21,672 households in the county, according to most recent Census estimates, approximately 30% of the homes in the county are not served by reliable internet service. This is shameful in this day.
An argument could be made the county has been way too slow on addressing this reality for its residents. The shortcomings in the rural area been discussed for more than 15 years, but next to nothing has been by the county on a steady basis. Commissioner Virgil Shockley admirably spearheaded the efforts for many years and served on a regional body charged with tackling the problem. In recent years, Commissioner Ted Elder has continuously addressed the need for change on this front as well.
However, the federal government deserves blame by providing dollars to a company that does not appear to be making headway in the effort. The federal funding appears to have come without any concern for checks and balances to see if the chosen provider is making progress. CTC recommended the county seek data and reports from the company immediately to determine what plan is in place to improve performance. The problem is that will likely cost the county additional dollars. As a result, the county remains in a holding pattern. It’s a sad situation with no easy solution, but it’s worth the efforts.
There seems to be a convenience store race in Berlin.
Though no official plans have been presented, it has been mentioned by the developer of land at North Main Street and Route 50 a 7-Eleven is in the works. It was also reported this week by an attorney representing the owner of the land at the corner of Route 50 and Old Ocean City Boulevard a convenience store will be part of a new commercial development in the future.
Attorney Joe Moore pointed out the obvious this week before the County Commissioners while seeking a rezoning of the 18-acre parcel at the town’s western “gateway” from agriculture to commercial. “The population growth of Berlin shows that there is significant increase in need for commercial area for the use of Berlin,” Moore said. “… Berlin since the 2000 Census has grown 48% in its population. As you all know, downtown Berlin — in its historic district and its commercial downtown area — is as we say full. Main Street cannot accommodate any additional uses.”