Good Deeds Goal
For Robert LaQuay, volunteering is a big part of being a resident of Hyattsville. Each week, the 63-year-old retiree and his wife go door-to-door with visiting and taking meals to shut-ins.
He is an active member of the city's recreation council. For the last 12 years, he has been the "official" Santa at the city's annual Breakfast with Santa and Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. And he is always looking for other ways to get involved.
"I've lived here almost 65 years. I was born and raised here, and I love it. That's why I am so enthusiastic about volunteering," he said. "I tell people, 'Why not volunteer to help out here?' It's my home, and I want to do what I can to keep the community up."
With that spirit in mind, city officials have started the 2001 Good Deeds program, a year-long project of neighbors helping neighbors. City officials are encouraging residents to do volunteer work for the city, such as planting trees, cleaning a street or park or helping their neighbors by donating time to a school or nursing home.
The city has set a goal of having 2001 good deeds completed by year's end. Volunteers will be recognized at the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Magruder Park. The city will recognize any volunteer activity done from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Residents may call the city or have the group or organization for which they volunteer call in their work so the city can keep track of all the community service.
Philip Hager, the city's recreation director, said the project is about celebrating those who already are involved in the community while encouraging others to get involved.
"The idea is to get people thinking about helping out their neighbors and helping out their community," he said. "We have a lot of people here who are already involved in their community, and we want to encourage more participation. It builds a better community, and it gets people out to meet their neighbors and to do good things."
Hyattsville has long prided itself on being a city where neighbors help one another. In October, a group of residents led by Mayor Robert W. Armentrout, the City Council and officials from the recreation department renovated the home of a blind couple that had been damaged by burglars. The city also is involved in the Raise the Roof and Christmas in April programs, which enlist volunteers to participate in home renovation projects.
"I think it's a good idea to get citizen involvement. The more we can get [volunteers] to do [community work], it saves the city budget money from having to do things like clean up, which is money we can use for other purposes," Armentrout said.
"We are just hoping to pyramid the good work already being done. We are hoping to get citizens to participate in several volunteer programs to make Hyattsville an even better place to live."
Marialis Zmuda, a social worker and volunteer, said she thinks the 2001 Good Deeds project is a good way to get residents involved in the ongoing life and health of the community.
"I have been volunteering since 1978, and I do it because small communities thrive on volunteers," she said. "It is very important for any city to be supportive of its volunteers because it brings you out of the vacuum and shows you that you are connected to the larger community. It also creates a great synergy between citizens and city officials, which translates into good benefits for us all."
For information on how to get involved in volunteer activities, contact the City of Hyattsville at 301-985-5000.
-- Kayce T. Ataiyero
Hyattsville officials soon will have to recommend whether a controversial new housing development should be built.
Plans by developer Marvin Blumberg call for 48 single-family homes in the $150,000 to $200,000 range to be built on 17 acres that he owns. City officials must make their views known to the county's park and planning department, which will make a final recommendation.
Residents of the nearby Rosemary Terrace subdivision say they are concerned about Blumberg's proposal and will lobby the City Council to oppose it.
The residents say they are worried about the potential traffic that the development will bring.
Blumberg's plan would turn Calverton Drive, a 24-foot-wide dead-end residential road owned by the city, into the principal entrance to the new subdivision and may also attract traffic in and out of Prince George's Plaza, the residents said.
"We have one lane as people come in and out," said Judy Robinson, president of the Terraces Civic Association. "That effectively makes us incapable of having 100 cars coming in and out."
"We're not against development," said Francis X. Gaegler Jr., a lawyer and 40-year resident of the Rosemary Terrace subdivision. "We're against this type of development and the way it's being done."
Residents say Blumberg's plans undermine city and residential authority. Neighbors say Blumberg's development could be designed in such a way to prevent the excess traffic from traveling through the tiny development by placing the entrance on Dean Drive. But Blumberg said residents' concerns about his project are unfounded. "We want to do what's reasonable and proper," Blumberg said. "There are three outlets from the property so that the traffic going in and out wouldn't just be one entrance."
But residents say opening all three outlets still would cause problems.
"We're a crime-free neighborhood," Robinson said. "Opening that roadway would make us become something completely different from what we are now. It doesn't have to happen."
Robinson said she would prefer the tract of wooded land to be turned into a park, rather than another subdivision.
City officials are expected to make a recommendation to the county's park and planning office shortly, Hyattsville City Clerk Sue Page said. After a recommendation is made, the Planning Board will hold a hearing on Blumberg's proposal. No date has been set.
-- Ashley M. Heher
Proposed legislation would give city police new authority to apprehend polluters.
The proposal submitted to the Laurel City Council last week would give police the power to arrest or cite individuals for "unlawful transportation and disposal of refuse" and "discharging harmful substances into the sewer." Before, only city code enforcers could arrest or cite individuals for the violation.
"They [the provisions] have always existed in the city code," said Lt. M. Wenko, of the Laurel police department. "All we asked for was the power to enforce what's been on the books for so many years."
Under the proposed amendment to the city's charter, anyone caught disposing of waste such as tires or other large material or discarding hazardous material such as motor oil and antifreeze into a sewer could be fined up to $500 and/or sentenced to up to six months in prison. The previous penalty was a $1,000 fine and/or up to a year in jail. The need for the proposed changes arose during a citywide review of the charter, city officials said.
"Since we do have a number of waterways in the city, we chose this ordinance. If we do see someone pull up and throw a tire into the lake, we can do something about it," Wenko said. "We're not talking about someone throwing a cigarette out into the water."
The proposal is slated to go before the City Council for final approval Jan. 24.
-- Ashley M. Heher
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CAPTION: Deacon Robert LaQuay, of First Baptist Church of Hyattsville, prepares to give Communion to Almeda Armentrout, left, Nella Jean Swenson, center, and Georgia Bender at the Independence Court Assisted Living Center.