Cumberland Times-News

April 3, 2010

You’ll have to wait a bit longer

Jan Alderton, Managing Editor
Cumberland Times-News

— Bathroom breaks on long family trips through Western Maryland will be a bit more challenging for a third year in a row this summer. That’s because the South Mountain Welcome Centers on Interstate 70 remain closed for remodeling.

The centers along eastbound and westbound I-70 were closed April 30, 2008 and will not reopen until sometime this fall. But the wait should be worth it once the improvements are complete.

The rest stop buildings were demolished and everything is being completely rebuilt. The State Highway Administration has said that the enhanced centers will be equipped with flat-screen TVs, featuring promotional videos and travel information, as well as wireless Internet access. A children’s playground and a pet area are being added, along with walking trails, picnic areas and expanded parking and restrooms. Total pricetag for the project is $21.4 million.

In the interim, a temporary welcome center is in operation at the Prime Outlets in Hagerstown....

Those two roundabouts built in front of the new Western Maryland Regional Medical Center on Willowbrook Road appear to be giving motorists few problems.

Sixty-eight roundabouts are on the Maryland state highway system, but Allegany County has only the two in front of the hospital. Garrett County has none and Washington County has two. The most roundabouts are in Howard County, with 15, followed by 11 in Anne Arundel County....

Governmental budget cuts are affecting everyone — even the recently deceased.

USA Today reports that police in cities big and small are discontinuing funeral escorts because of insurance concerns, staffing and changing priorities. “In most large cities, funeral escorts are provided by private companies that contract with funeral homes, or by the funeral homes themselves,” the newspaper reports....

Another reason to grimace over Washington spending: Nearly 2,000 House of Representatives staffers made six-figure salaries in 2009, including 43 who earned the maximum of $172,500. This from a report in Politico.

The top salaries represent more than three times the median U.S. household income.

The newspaper also found that many entry-level congressional jobs pay less than $30,000 a year....

The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs warns that an organization named Congressional Education Foundation for Public Policy has listed the department as a “benefactor” for an upcoming event they are supposedly planning to honor veterans. The MDVA knows nothing about the organization, or the event it is publicizing. The group also is not registered with the Maryland Office of the Secretary of State, a requirement to solicit funds in the state....

One of the many fallouts from the new government health care reform is a tax increase on indoor tanners and tanning businesses. The 10 percent tax increase is expected to cause tanning prices to rise this summer.

Capital News Service reports the tanning tax was not originally in the health care legislation, but was added to replace a planned 5 percent “Botax” on cosmetic sugeries like Botox treatments and tummy tucks....

Frederick County diners apparently soon will be able to take their dogs to restaurant outdoor dining areas in the county. Legislation  is nearing passage giving the county commissioners authority to create an exception to state health care regulations, which ban dogs except service dogs from dining areas, both inside and out.

Allowing dogs outdoors at restaurants has been touted as a way to increase tourism in downtown Frederick, especially at the Downtown Frederick Partnership’s event, Dog Days of Summer, according to the Frederick News-Post....

Seen on the Internet — Dave Barry quotes:

• “The Internet is the most important single development in the history of human communication since the invention of call waiting.”

• “For me, the worst part of playing golf, by far, has always been hitting the ball.”

• “People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.”

• “American consumers have no problem with carcinogens, but they will not purchase any product, including floor wax, that has fat in it.”

• “If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are any men on base.”

• “Gravity is a contributing factor in 73 percent of all accidents involving falling objects.”

Jan Alderton is managing editor of the Cumberland Times-News. His email address is jpalderton@times-news.com.