County executive faces public at NHCA meeting
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 12:02
by Ben Boehl

After nearly two months of controversy, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz finally met face-to-face with Dundalk residents as the main guest speaker at The New Norwood Holabird Community Association (NHCA) annual meeting at Squire’s Restaurant on Monday.
    As expected, Kamenetz’s appearance brought out a large number of Dundalk residents, including many who are upset about the county’s decision to place the North Point Government Center site up for sale. This was their first face-to-face interaction with the county executive since the announcement was made in December.
    NHCA president John Ayres said that he supports the decision of the county to place the Government Center site on the market. Ayres added that he has also looked at the deed of the property and that the county has the legal right to sell the building.
Still, he said, he questions why Kamenetz did not notify the community that such a plan was under consideration.
    “Why didn’t you come to the community organizations before you offered the RFP?” Ayres asked the county executive.
    Kamenetz did not reply directly to Ayres’ question, but he did say that the Government Center and the two other county government buildings (the Towson fire station and the Randallstown police substation) have long been rumored to be for sale, and this is not the first time the possibility has been mentioned.
        “People have been talking about it for the last 18 months,”  Kamenetz said.
    “We decided to go see if there was any interest in these properties. Our goal is to accommodate our goals without it costing us money.”
    Dave Patro, president of the North Point Village Community Association, attended the meeting and said he was promised by the county executive’s liaison that Kamenetz would come down to the area to meet occasionally with the leaders of the different community organizations.
    Patro noted that if Kamenetz had a better line of communication with the community, there might not have been as much anger over the Government Center  plan and the proposed closing of Eastwood Elementary School.
    “It was a big disappointment to see what was happening in the paper,” Patro said to Kamenetz.
    “Fair enough,” Kamenetz responded.
    Ayres also announced that he is stepping down as NHCA president at the end of the year, as he is getting married and moving to the Middle River area with his fiancée Sally, who was at the meeting and was introduced to the crowd.
    “It’s not goodbye or farewell. I will be seeing you later and I will, but we are going to get things done before I leave,” Ayres said.
    Ayres will not be the only member of NHCA to leave at the end of the year as Terry Godwin, past president and treasurer will step down at the end of the year.
    Godwin told fellow members that because of Ayres, NHCA is in a good place with its non-profit charter with money in the bank account. All that is needed is new leadership.
    “We need people to join and to make this bigger. Take this and help out this part of the county,” Godwin said. “The NHCA is the only one who can do things legally.”
    The NHCA gave out its Humanitarian award to developer John Vontran. While Vontran might appear to be a controversial figure because of his involvement in the YOrkway and Seagram’s projects, Ayres explained that Vontran has done more for the community than people realize. Ayres said he has done the research and said that Vontran has no ties to Frank Scarfield, noting that many people try to link the two as business partners.
    “They don’t have the facts where Scarfield tried to screw him.”
    Ayres continued to explain that when Vontran became a NHCA member, he went around to private donors and raised $2,200 for NHCA. Ayres also said that Vontran helped with a cleanup effort in the community with him buying lunch for all the volunteers.
    “When John Vontran came to NHCA, he came to me with one question — what can I do for NHCA?” Ayres added.
    Awards were also given out to Cpl. Marianne Snyder and Lt. Michael Sansosti for their police service, and Dundalk High School teacher Tom Pless was honored for being the school’s longest-tenured teacher at 38 years.
    Ayres credits Pless for making the person he is today.
    Pless introduced Ayres to the radio station at the school when Ayres was a student in the late 1970s.
    “I can’t tell you how happy I am that I stayed in the Dundalk area for all these years,” Pless said.
    The Romiti family, owners of Squire’s, was also honored for their contribution to the community.
    “Bob Romiti, his mother, father and his brother Lorenzo have been giving back to this community for the last 60 years,” Ayres said, explaining that Lorenzo started an inner-city Boy Scout troop and Bob rode his motorcycle across country to raise money for juvenile diabetes.
    Leah Bunck of the Dundalk Renaissance Corp. (DRC) was also honored for helping reestablish the relationship between the DRC and the NHCA.
    Ayers said he went 10 years without talking to the DRC and said he is talking to them again because of Bunck.
    Capt. Jan Brown, Commander of the North Point Police Precinct 12, and Baltimore County Code Enforcement Chief Lionel Van Dommelen gave presentations.
    Van Dommelen gave an update on rats, as the county is setting up its rat treatment program for this year and it looks to continue it in the spring.     
    Van Dommelen added that Code Enforcement is now in charge of Section 8 regulations.
    “I should not be able to tell the difference between a Section 8 house and an owner-occupied home,” Van Dommelen said, as his goal for the program.