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Month: January 2011 Page 1 of 4

Prayer, Campaign Sought to Avoid Post-Game Riot

UMD riot, 2010

With the UMD vs Duke game only one day away, the students, police, City officials and religious leaders have been very busy to avoid the repeat of 2010 riot that earned bad reputation for our college town. More than a dozen students were arrested during the riot and the county police was accused of using excessive force.

Students, UMD Chaplain Rev. Kim Capps, Rev. George Wilkinson of Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church, Maj. Liberati of P.G. Police & UMD’s Public Safety Chief David Mitchell will gather for a joint prayer rally tomorrow, Feb. 1 @ 7 – 8 PM at the West Chapel (in Memorial Chapel). The rally has been billed as a gathering to pray for the “Safety and Sportsmanship and seek God’s blessings for our city before the UMD v. Duke home basketball game on Feb. 2nd”.

In the mean time, the UMD students have been planning to observe a “Beat the Duke Week” to allow students to celebrate the outcome of the game in a constructive manner, should the UMD wins against Duke.

Additionally, a pep rallywill be held tomorrow at 6 p.m. in Comcast Center, said Student Government Association President Steve Glickman.

Mayor Andrew Fellows said he likes the university’s proactive approach, “instead of throwing up our hands and saying there is nothing we can do.”

Peggy Higgins Talks about her New Job, Opportunities

Peggy Higgins

Peggy Higgins

The recently elected school board representative in our area Peggy Higgins took her time to share some her thoughts on her new job and her vision to address the challenges the school system is facing. Please see the complete interview below.

1) What was your reaction after you first learned the news of your election victory?
My first reaction when I learned I had been elected was a sense of purpose.  I am truly humbled by the number of people who supported, worked and voted for me. It is an honor to represent my community.

2) What are the challenges you are facing in your new job as the school board representative ?
As a board member of six weeks, the current challenges have mostly to do with forming relationships with other Board members and school superintendent Dr. Hite and his staff as well as learning the structure and process of resolving parent concerns.  And then obviously the biggest challenge all of us are facing is how to assure the continuation of academic rigor for our children despite the very real budget constraints.

3)  How will your approach in addressing  challenges in Prince George’s schools in our area be different from previous approaches?
Like each of my Board colleagues, I bring my own unique experiences to Board deliberations and discussions.  My background both as a social worker and as a municipal department head is a good mix of practical experience working on behalf of children and families and an understanding of how bureaucracies operate. I believe this practical experience contributes positively in our Board deliberations.

4) Many appreciate your work as the Director of College Park Youth and Family Services (YFS). Do you plan to continue working with YFS?
The School Board position is not a full-time paid position.  Each Board member receives $18,000 minus taxes of approximately $6,000, leaving an annual income of $12,000 a year. It always has been my plan to continue my work for College Park.  I love my job as the City’s Youth, Family and Seniors Services Director and have 21 years experience in this position.  Thus I am very aware of the ebb and flow of those duties which is helpful as I take on Board responsibilities. I have committed to being very busy these next four years and accept that responsibility.  As I anticipated, it is my personal time that has disappeared.

‘Armed’ Escaped Prisoner Last Seen Around North College Park

 The University of Maryland Police is reporting that that a man who escaped from the Garrett County Detention Center may have be in the area of College Park. 

The escapee, Deandre Kelly, was seen in the vicinity of the Seven Springs Village Apartments off of Cherry Hill Road earlier in the week. 

A phone call to the UMD Police has revelead that the escaped prisoner has not been caught as of this morning.

Any community member who believes they may have seen or have come in contact with Mr. Kelly is asked to contact the U.S. Marshalls at 301-489-1717 or 800-336-0102, or 911. 

The US Marshalls Service is warning that Kelly should be considered armed and dangerous. Kelly assaulted two correctional officers and forced them to open an exit door by producing what appeared to be a handgun on last Sunday. 

29-year-old Kelly, is described as 6 feet tall and 275 lbs. 

After Kelly’s escape, authorities offered a $6,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

The agency says Kelly was being held on $100,000 bond since his arrest Saturday for alleged drug and firearm violations and lying to police.

The FBI is assisting local and state authorities in the investigation.

Will Pepco Ever Learn?

Yesterday early morning, I  received this email from our council member talking about the power outage at.. guess where? – the City building.

Because the power is out in most of downtown College Park, including City Hall, the city’s web server is down.  As a result, I can’t get any e-mail on my city account, nor can anyone on staff.

The power outage continued until a good part of the day, yet in many part of the City, a significant number of Pepco customers in the region remain without power. Pepco is saying customers need to wait at least until 11 tonight for complete power restorations.

According a NPR report, only Pepco could restore only 40% of its power outage over 24 hrs since the storm ended last Wednesday midnight. The same figure for Virginia Dominion Power is 80%, and the Baltimore Power Electric is 70%.

The Washington Post is also reporting that Pepco was the slowest in seeking help from others to restore power. It trailed behind other utility companies in the area, such as BGE and Virginia Dominion Power.

This is not the first time Pepco’s response to snowstorm has been criticized. After last year’s snow storms, Maryland Public Service arranged two public hearings, where customers slammed Pepco’s record of poor services.

Need Snow Shoveling Help? Let Us Know

Blizzard Braves, 2010

It’s that time of the year again. Snow is piling up on our streets, driveways and pathways. The weather forecast said we’d be getting upto 8 inches of snow in the area overnight.

Like the past years, we’re offering free snow shoveling help for the folks who need them. We know many of our neighbors, especially the elderly and disabled ones, often get stuck in their homes during this season and need our serious help.

If you or anyone you know who may need such help, please feel free to give me a call (301-659-6295) or email me at We hope to get some volunteers throughout the snow season to help out the needy folks.

Also, if you’d like to volunteer in this, please let us know. The experience you’ll get is very rewarding.

Comfort Zone to Face County Hearing

After receiving two violations and failing to ‘correct’ its alleged business practices, the ‘adult store’ Comfort Zone will be appearing at a zoning hearing before the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals next month.

City officials are expected to attend the hearing, as they are the main prosecutors in this case, enforcing the county’s zoning laws.

The hearing was first scheduled last Wednesday (January 19), but was postponed to March 2.

The reason for the postponement is a bit unclear. While one City official wrote to me that the hearing was postponed “at the request of the business owner”, but according to this Diamondback piece, it was postponed “because not enough members were present to hold a vote” at last week’s scheduled hearing.

Residents, Police to Discuss Gangs in Neighborhood

Number of gangs in PG county

If you have seen group of young folks hanging around your street corners after dark, night after night, for no apparent reason, chances are that they are part of organised gangs.

The presence of gangs in our county is real. According to a recent statistics, there are some 23 gangs in our part of the county (district 1).

In late spring 2008, the Prince George’s County Council established the Youth and Gang Violence Task Force (CR-25-2008) to review and evaluate the County’s violence prevention programs and make recommendations to ensure a well-coordinated and systematic violence prevention effort in the County. This resulted in a report, which was published in 2009. 

I recently received an email from one my neighbors on such a gang around four corner area and the police thankfully responded promptly.

In case you’re not sure, talk to your local police officer. Better yet, try to attend the meeting tomorrow with the police, who will be discussing this issue in particular.

The community meeting will held at District 1 in the conference room (5000 Rhode Island Ave.) at 6:30pm. A special presentation will be given by Sgt. George Norris of the PGPD Gang unit / Gang Expert.

Residents, MD Delegate Up in Arms Over WSSC’s Messy Street Work

A messy NCP street, courtesy of WSSC

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC)’s water replacement work in north College Park may have completed recently, but it has caused much concerns among the residents.

Residents think the restoration work on these streets are nothing but “cheap patch work”.

WSSC started the water replacement work about a year ago, which involved approximately 4 miles of water main in our neighborhood. The affected streets are located between the following boundaries: the Beltway to the north, Hollywood Rd. to the south; 53rd Avenue to the west and Baltimore Avenue to the east.

Please see a map of WSSC’s replacement work here.

In an email to NCPCA, WSSC’s contract manager Robert Spigone has recently said:

Final restoration is currently being done (weather pending) which includes concrete work for sidewalks, driveway, and curb/gutter, asphalt paving of water and sewer trenches, and grading, seeding, stabilizing grass areas disturbed (yards, tree box areas, and R/W’s).

Avoid common pitfalls in paving. Check out for the top 10 mistakes to avoid.

As can be seen in the message, the WSSC only promises “asphalt paving” of the trenches, which is not the same thing as the original construction of our streets. For a range of driveway materials including gravel, stone and concrete, contact Abington Driveways.

This is quite contrary to the promise that WSSC made in the water main replacement brochure (please see below), where it said it would restore the paved streets “as closely as possible to their original appearance“.

Residents expressed concerns about WSSC’s sub-par repair work in this month’s NCPCA meeting.  The residents said they would like to see WSSC restore the streets where they have removed pipes to the condition they were in before the excavation.

The good news is that the MD Delegate Joseline Melnyk was also present at the meeting. Ms. Melnyk, who has recently been appointed as the WSSC sub committee in our area, listened resident’s concern first hand. She promised her office will contact WSSC with residents’ concerns.

Bluelight Phone Near Metro Goes Live

After months of speculations, the much anticipated blue light phone went into operation near Greenbelt Metro’s north entrance, near Lackawanna and 53rd ave intersection. The single emergency phone started working from last Thursday night. Residents expected to have this phone in August last year.

Though the downtown and the UMD campus have a bunch of such emergency phones, this will probably the first of this kind of phones in north College Park area.

Blue light phones are illuminated with a bright blue light, which should make them easier to find. In case of emergencies, callers should be able to contact the Police directly by activating these phones (by pressing the big red button). An emergency dispatcher should be notified of the caller’s exact location.

Lackawanna St. Streetscape Site Furniture

The installation of the phone is part of the Lackawanna streetscape project that has recently stirred much controversies due to the excessive street lights.

The design of the blue-light telephone had a slight deviation from what was originally shown in the Lackawanna Street’s streetsacpe design document. A picture of the site furniture in the design document shows that the phone would be powered by solar power; however the installed phone seems to be powered by Pepco’s land lines.

The blue light phone is manufactured by a Chicago based company called Talk-a-Phone .

City Hit by $20M Lawsuit

A group of property owners in College Park has recently sued the City with a $20M  lawsuit. A 19 page court document detailing 107 complains (please see below) says that the City has enacted rent control ordinances that only apply to residential properties (and not other apartments / student housing). The plaintiffs also have complaints against the rent stabilization board that the City has been forming to enforce the ordinances.

The lawsuit asks the Court to award the plaintiffs “$20 million dollars in compensatory damages”. Additionally, it asks for another “$20 million in punitive damages plus cost, expenses and attorney”s fees as well as any other relief available under law”.

Another lawsuit by the property owners was previously rejected by the State Court of Appeals in December 2008.

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