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Week in review: 7/13/12

Costs rise along with temperatures

Damage such as the cracked roadway on U.S. Route 50 is making an already-expensive run of summer weather even more costly after a mostly mild Maryland winter. David Buck, a State Highway Administration spokesman, said: “You can’t predict it. We live in an area where you’ve got the extremes. You’ve got below-zero in the winter and you’ve got 105 … with pavement temperatures in the 130s [in the summer].” The cost of the midsummer’s nightmare is still being calculated by state agencies and the regulated utility companies that struggled with the heat as they attempted to restore power to some 800,000 customers who were without electricity following a violent storm on June 29. The state’s emergency declaration makes it possible that federal dollars will be used to reimburse some emergency costs stemming from the storm and heat wave.

Superblock developer: We’ll hire locally

A plan to grant a tax break worth millions of dollars to the developers of the proposed Superblock downtown drew a packed house to a City Council hearing this week. The incentive would allow Lexington Square Partners to have a 95 percent property tax break, in the form of a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, on the $150 million project for the first 15 years with incremental property tax increases over the next five years. Harry Dawson Jr., a principal in the Atlanta-based Dawson Co., one of the developers, pledged at the hearing to hire local residents and said that his company has been drafting an agreement to do so.

AG’s opinion on pit bulls binding?

An opinion from the Office of the Maryland Attorney General could ease the mind of pit bull owners and their landlords, but an Upper Shore lawmaker cautioned that the opinion is not binding. The opinion states that the Court of Appeals’ recent ruling making owners and their landlords strictly liable if a pit bull attacks another person is not in effect while the court reviews a motion for reconsideration. But Republican Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. said the opinion only offered a guess on how a court would rule and other lawyers could argue that the pit bull liability ruling is in effect.

Rawlings-Blake, Pratt at odds over phone deal

After a heated and at times bitter debate between Baltimore’s mayor and comptroller, the city Board of Estimates voted down a proposal for a new telephone system with IBM under a $7.4 million contract. At one point, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake glared at Comptroller Joan Pratt and rendered sarcastic comments as Pratt lobbied for the contract.

Environmental group gives assembly only passing grade

In the best session for environmental legislation in four years, members of the General Assembly still barely earned a passing grade, according to an environmental group’s annual scorecard. The Maryland League of Conservation Voters lauded legislators for passing a package of water quality bills that could aid the state’s waterways and celebrated record funding for environmental programs, including $63 million for the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund and $70 million for Program Open Space. But conservation advocates emphasized the importance of diversifying the state’s energy portfolio through development of clean energy technology, like offshore wind.

Septics rules called boost for bay

Regulations requiring new Maryland construction to use the best technology in septic systems would help clean up the Chesapeake Bay, supporters told lawmakers, but critics said the proposal by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration is a back-door effort to implement a plan already rejected by the General Assembly. Robert Summers, secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, said the septics law, combined with the regulation, will equal a reduction in nitrogen produced by about 31,000 households.

Grand Prix deal calls for payment before race

The Maryland Stadium Authority unanimously approved an event agreement for the Labor Day weekend Baltimore Grand Prix, as well as an office lease agreement with event promoter Andretti Sports Marketing. Organizers will pay $108,000 to rent all of the parking lots that belong to the stadium authority. A quarter of the lot rental cost is due by Aug. 1, with the rest to be paid at least 10 days before the Aug. 31 start of racing.

Court rules for long-delayed challenge

The Court of Appeals vacated Jarmal Johnson’s 1992 conviction for assault-with-intent-to-murder that had gone unchallenged for 16 years. Lower courts had decided that Johnson’s long silence constituted an implied acquiescence to the charge, even in the absence of an indictment. The high court said Johnson’s challenge to his conviction without prior indictment could “be raised at any time” under Maryland procedural rules and the state’s Declaration of Rights.

38 Studios exec blames R.I.

A top executive for a failed video game company led by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling said this week that the company tried up until the very last minute to work out a deal to stay afloat. But William Thomas told a U.S. Bankruptcy Court trustee in Delaware that Rhode Island’s refusal to approve some $5 million in tax credit advances in May was the straw that broke the financial back of 38 Studios LLC.