It was a difficult, yet triumphant year
Jan. 4, 2002
Jeffrey Lyles
Staff Writer




As 2001 took its final bow across the stage, Port Towns and Gateway community residents remembered the past 12 months as one of the most difficult and triumphant years in recent memory.

In the face of one of the greatest tragedies in American history, communities comprising the Port Towns reminded residents what true heroes are all about.

Five Cottage City firefighters ­ Shawna Humphrey, Leroy Mangum, Shawn Gilligan, Ronnie Lawthorne and Eddie Crawford ­ were among the hundreds of area firefighters on hand to help extinguish the fires after the Pentagon terrorist attack on Sept. 11.

To help the relief effort in New York, six volunteer Bladensburg firefighters, Nick and Lisa Catalin, Dennis Devous, Scott Glazer, Kevin Trisdale and Dave Spigone traveled to New York to relieve a Long Island fire department.

One of the top stories was the beginning of the two-year construction of a new Bladensburg High School. During the construction phase, Bladensburg began its first year at the Belair Annex in Bowie, a decision that initially met with controversy from Bowie residents who wanted the annex to be used to alleviate overcrowding at local Bowie schools.

In Mount Rainier, the roundabout ­ a traffic-calming device outside city hall ­ is in the finishing stages of completion while city attention has shifted to the creation of a new library and construction of a new police station in 2002.

Mount Rainier had its share of controversy with the election of a new mayor, Michael Lawson, and three new council members, votes of no confidence in Police Chief Fred Keeney, City Manager Lucille Dickinson, Public Works Director Edmund Gabay and Financial and Human Resources Administrator Manager Bill Mowery in July.

Dickinson resigned after seven-and-a-half years effective Oct. 26, with Councilwoman Susan Bailey (Ward 1) resigning a week later.

The area was no stranger to awards either. Mount Rainier Elementary School was named one of eight national schools selected for a national award for character in September.

The Port Towns Jobs-For-Youth Program had another successful year providing 57 youth with summer jobs, while the program's creator, the Rev. Gail Addison was honored by the Washington Area Women's Foundation for addressing the needs of moderate-to-low income and at-risk women.

The Port Towns and Gateway communities were also one of the best areas in the county to spot movers and shakers in state and county government as they were on hand for many major announcements and ceremonies.

In August, County Executive Wayne Curry attended the groundbreaking for the fire station that will consolidate the Brentwood, Cottage City/Colmar Manor and Mount Rainier fire departments.

The $54 million station, located at 34th Avenue and Bunker Hill Road in Brentwood, is tentatively scheduled for completion in the fall of 2002.

After years of planning and trying to secure funding for an exhaustive renovation, the town of Brentwood's Veterans Memorial Park was dedicated on Nov. 3 in a ceremony attended by several delegates including Joanne Benson (D-Dist. 24) of Landover and Carolyn Howard (D-Dist. 24) of Mitchellville.

At the Colmar Manor Toddler Park, Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced Nov. 9 that the town would receive $75,000 as part of a $5.2 million neighborhood renewal grant that would benefit several communities.

Bladensburg Mayor David Harrington had a very successful year as he once again was elected mayor. He was also elected the first black president of the Maryland Municipal League.

E-mail Jeffrey Lyles at jlyles@gazette.net.