Residents raise concerns over watershed, crime

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Note:  The article suggests that Sam Lane "got 10 years," but should have more clearly defined that Sam Lane was the prosecutor who secured a 10-year sentence on a violent offender, not that he was sentenced to a 10-year sentence.


May 11, 2011, Elaine Blaisdell, Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — City officials and police officers fielded about 70 questions questions pertaining to the proposed sale of Evitts Creek watershed to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, plea bargains, sex offenders and how to deter crime.

Each question was asked by Louise Elliot of the North End Watch Association during the Neighborhood Advisory Commission summit held on Wednesday.

Mayor Brian Grim and Councilwoman Mary Beth Pirolozzi were questioned about the “real” reason behind the proposed sale of  the watershed to WPC and were also asked when then the Maryland Avenue sidewalks would be completed.

Pirolozzi explained the proposed sale with WPC was now off the table and said, “the real reason was for conservation, so that future mayors and councils in years to come couldn’t sell that property, couldn’t develop that property. So we could continue to protect our watershed.”

Pirolozzi also explained that an easement possibility was discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting. “There will not be a sale, and it is strictly for conservation purposes,” said Pirolozzi.  

In regard to the Maryland Avenue sidewalks, Mayor Grim said Community Development Block Grant funds  would be used for the completion of the sidewalk.

“The dangerous portion of the sidewalk that had to be closed is set to be taken care of this year,” said Grim.

Michael Twigg, state’s attorney for Allegany County, was asked what it takes to get more results and less plea bargains. Twigg listed several cases where he had gotten significant sentences and used Stephen Westfall, who received 55 years; Christopher Brooks who got 24 years; and Sam Lane, who got 10 years, as examples.

“We are getting the times on these,” said Twigg.

Twigg further elaborated on the Westfall case stating, “Could I maybe have gotten attempted first-degree murder? Possibly. Would I have wanted to put a 6-year-old girl on the stand in order to testify and relive what happened to her? No I’m not going to do that. What’s the result? He is going to serve 55 years in prison and I’m very confident he is going to die in there.”

There have been more jury trials than other jurisdictions this year, according to Twigg. “And we are doing that, mind you, with a staff that’s much smaller,” he said.

There are two judges, Twigg said, since the beginning of the year, there have been about 220 cases that went to Circuit Court.

“We haven’t had 220 days in the year to try every case that comes up,” said Twigg. “What happens is we have one to two trial dates per week that we can actually try a case. Any given Tuesday we are getting somewhere between 15 to 20 cases that are coming up and we can’t try 15 or 20 cases in a week, so plea bargains are natural in order to get them resolved.”

Twigg explained that a plea bargain was a good thing and used the example of Thomas Krenn, who was convicted last year for killing his aunt and that his case went to a plea bargain because the family didn’t want to testify. “That case was plea, and he is serving life in prison,” said Twigg.

Another plus for a plea bargain is the fact that the ability to appeal becomes extremely limited, said Twigg.

Cpl. Kevin Detrick, Maryland State Police sex offender registration coordinator, addressed questions about how close a sex offender can live near children and if sex offenders carry a lifelong title.

“There are no footage laws in Maryland. Technically, a sex offender could live right beside a school,” said Detrick.

Detrick explained that thanks to the recent passing of a new law, tier 3 sex offenders, which are the highest offenders, carry the lifelong title.

The Cumberland Police Department and the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office fielded questions regarding speed cameras on Maryland Avenue, bike patrol in the city and what could be done to deter crime and issues with the Brunswick bar on Virginia Avenue.

Lt. Steve Schellhaus of the Cumberland Police Department said speed cameras couldn’t be used on Maryland Avenue because the area doesn’t qualify, but speed trailers were deployed regularly to catch speeders.

Lt. Brian Lepley, Cumberland Police, explained that bike patrollers are used for festivals and will been seen around town this summer, especially around Virginia Avenue.

Cpl. James Hott, Cumberland Police school resource officer, recommended residents make sure everything is properly lit, hedges are trimmed and doors are locked in order to deter crime. He also suggested that people pay attention to their surroundings, look over their shoulder and yell if they feel in danger.

“Criminals like the dark, and they are lazy,” said Hott. “We don’t live in Mayberry anymore.”

Schellhaus suggested placing lights on timers, cancelling the newspaper and mail if going out of town for an extended amount of time. Hott added those who are out of town not post that they are on Facebook.

In regard to the Burnswick bar, Lepley noted that police have taken a particular interest in the bar and a presence was being maintained there.

“We’ve written three citations there today. I went by at 5 (p.m.) and there was no one outside the bar,” said Lepley.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .