County Comment The Season Of Giving

by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

Holidays bring out the spirit of giving in all of us. We give to bell ringers, mail and phone solicitors, and recently, to people standing out in the middle of the road.

Since last summer, the intersection of Massey Boulevard and Halfway Boulevard near Valley Mall has been host to numbers of solicitors, representing local and not-so-local charitable organizations. These well-meaning folks often stray from the traffic islands onto the roadway itself, causing safety problems for themselves and motorists alike.

The problem has grown so severe that Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades is asking that the Local Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly pass a bill that would enable Washington County to require permits and regulations as to how individuals conduct themselves while soliciting.

Mades told the Board that while many legitimate, local groups collect donations in this way, others are from out of town, and may or may not be legitimate. One recent group represented a church organization in Texas.

Mades said that people who interfere with the proper flow of traffic may be charged with an offense. However, there are no laws regulating activities when traffic is stopped. Enabling legislation would allow the County Permits and Inspections department to draft rules governing the activity. If groups were found to be in violation of the regulations, they could be fined.

Mades cited an incident in which several school-age girls were left on the traffic islands without adult supervision, and one in which solicitors were entering traffic after darkness had fallen.

The request was one of several that Mades put forth to enable the County to provide better public safety. The Sheriff has proposed prohibition of massage parlors that do not have state certification, home detention for pretrial detainees, and support for a statewide initiative on narcotics nuisance abatement that would allow landlords to eject tenants for breach of lease actions based on illegal drug use, sale or possession.