The Calvert County Board of Education has approved a three-year contract with the school system's support staff union, tentatively ending 13 months of contentious negotiations between the two groups.

The 300-member union -- which represents custodians, secretaries, nurses and cafeteria workers -- is expected to ratify the agreement by mid-December, said Sandy Brady, president of the Calvert Association of Educational Support Staff.

The contract creates a simplified salary scale that will increase support staff salaries by an average of 2 percent, Brady said.

Support staff also will receive a pay raise of 1.5 percent for the second half of this year, followed by salary increases of 3 to 4 percent for each of the following two years based on the Consumer Price Index.

The two sides, which had been scheduled to go to third-party arbitration Monday, reached the tentative agreement last Thursday morning. The Board of Education approved a three-year contract with the teachers union this month.

The agreement provides the same right to union or legal representation during a disciplinary investigation that the teachers' union negotiated, Brady said.

"It gives us the right to representation not in the initial investigative stage, but it gives us a lot more availability during other parts of the investigation," she said. "It opens the door to get more representation rights in future talks."

Town Election Dispute

The disputed Chesapeake Beach town election now has one more point of dispute.

Marguerite Thomas, who fell 25 votes short of winning a seat on the Town Council, says one of the candidates who defeated her may not be a legal resident of the town.

"I am formally protesting the results of the recent elections based on the eligibility of Barbara Jo Finch as a legal resident of Chesapeake Beach," Thomas wrote in an e-mail to the town clerk. "I am requesting that Ms. Finch no [sic] be officially sworn in as an elected town council member until she can prove to the satisfaction of all her claim to be a legal resident of Chesapeake Beach."

Finch, 77, served on the Town Council for 12 years until she moved to southern Anne Arundel County several months after winning reelection to a fourth term in 2000. If the town declared Finch ineligible to hold town office, Thomas, the seventh-highest vote-getter, would win a seat on the six-member council.

"I know what Maggie is trying to do," Finch said. "But she really doesn't have a leg to stand on."

Finch said she and her husband planned to move in September to a home at the Horizons on the Bay community. But because of construction delays, Finch said, the home will not be ready until January.

Since Oct. 1, Finch said, she and her husband have been renting a home at 7543 I St. in Chesapeake Beach.

"The place we moved out of [in Anne Arundel] is, as far as I know, still for rent," she said.

Boost for Boys and Girls

Who can say no to two dozen adorable children?

Apparently not the Calvert Board of County Commissioners.

The commissioners voted Tuesday to allocate $350,000 to build a Boys and Girls Club in North Beach, four days after about 20 youths packed the North Beach Town Hall with 1,109 postcards calling on the county to do just that.

The 5 to 0 vote placed the project in next year's proposed budget, which still requires approval by the commissioners in the spring. But Commissioner Susan Shaw (R-Huntington) said the project is likely to retain its funding.

"Normally when we put something in the budget, we do not take it out," she said.

The new $2.1 million club would serve up to 250 young people a day and replace the current structure, which is composed of three trailers and serves fewer than 65 youths a day.

The old structure will move to the southern part of the county and become a Boys and Girls Club in Lusby.

The state, federal and North Beach governments have pledged $900,000 toward the project. The Boys and Girls Club plans to raise the balance of the money from private donations.

Here's to Your Health

The soulful sounds of "Liquid Jazz" will be heard from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro.

The wine and jazz festival is a benefit for Calvert Healthcare Solutions. Tickets are $60 each, and the price is tax deductible. They may be purchased by visiting www.calverthealthcare.org, through Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com and at the Show Place Arena.

An optional "Basics of Wine Tasting" class will be offered at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and costs an additional $15.

The Liquid Jazz festival will include jazz performances and wine tasting. The evening's entertainment lineup features the Davey Yarborough Quartet, Esther Williams, and Reginald Cyntje and the RC Group accompanied by vocalist Asia.

Wine selections available from National Distributors and Reliable Churchill, such as Estancia, Fetzer and Beaulieu, will be available for tasting. Festival-goers may also take part in a silent auction.

The festival's featured performer will be saxophone player Davey Yarborough. Yarborough has appeared at the Kennedy Center and worked with such artists as Sir Roland Hanna, Billy Eckstine and Lena Horne.

Calvert Healthcare Solutions is a nonprofit organization that helps uninsured working adults in Calvert County with limited financial resources obtain primary medical care. Calvert Memorial Hospital, a consortium of physicians and the county government have volunteered services to serve more than 600 adult residents since its inception in October 2002. Funds raised during Liquid Jazz will go toward the cost of prescription drugs.

Preserving Barns

National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe reaffirmed the organization's commitment to preserving Southern Maryland tobacco barns in a keynote address Monday to civic leaders and preservationists attending the Southern Maryland Tobacco Barns Summit.

Moe highlighted urban sprawl as an imminent threat to the landmarks and called for the development of a regional strategy to preserve the structures that are a link to Maryland's tobacco-growing legacy.

"The tobacco barns are defining symbols of Southern Maryland," Moe said. "It is critical that landowners, preservationists and community leaders work together to preserve these historic barns and their agricultural and historic landscapes, which are vital to telling the story of the region's rich heritage."

The summit in Huntingtown was organized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Maryland, the Maryland Historical Trust and Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George's and St. Mary's counties. Summit participants closely examined the state of the historic tobacco barns, threats to the landmarks and solutions to preserving this defining architectural characteristic of the region.

In June, the National Trust included the tobacco barns of Southern Maryland on the 2004 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. These historic barns, once essential to the process of air-curing tobacco, are being lost as the region's agricultural land is being consumed by the spread of residential development. Pressure from such growth has been aggravated, according to the National Trust, by the unintended consequences of Maryland's "tobacco buyout" program, which encourages farmers to stop cultivating tobacco -- the mainstay crop of Southern Maryland since the 17th century.

Charles Receives Grant

Charles County will receive $25,000 in Program Open Space funds approved last week by the Maryland Board of Public Works as part of a $568,874 package of grants that also included Howard, Prince George's and Talbot counties.

The Charles County grant will be used to acquire a quarter-acre parcel adjacent to the quarter-acre Cobb Island Park, which contains a playground. The land will provide a parking area and allow public access to Neale Sound for kayaking and canoeing.

The county will also be able to preserve the lot's vegetative buffer along the waterway.

Kudos to 8 Schools

Eight St. Mary's County schools were among those recognized statewide by the Maryland State Department of Education for overall achievement on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) for 2004 and for improvement among subgroups from the 2003 MSA.

Title I schools that are recognized will receive financial awards. All other schools recognized will receive certificates of recognition.

The St. Mary's County schools are: Green Holly, Greenview Knolls, Hollywood, Leonardtown, Oakville, Town Creek and White Marsh elementary schools and Margaret Brent Middle School. Green Holly is a Title I school.

Three schools -- Hollywood, Town Creek and White Marsh -- were recognized for overall achievement. The other schools showed improvement among subgroups from 2003 to 2004.

A Southern Smokeout

Smokers throughout Southern Maryland are putting their cigarettes out today.

It is the American Cancer Society's annual Great American Smokeout, a day when smokers of all ages are encouraged to kick the habit for the day -- and perhaps for a lifetime.

To celebrate, the Charles County Health Department has enlisted InHome Management Services and Kimberly Bean Website Design and Creative Services to create a new Web site, CharlesCountyKicksButt.org. The site will launch next month.

The site targets two distinct audiences: pre-teens/teenagers and their parents. In the teen section, young visitors will find data about the effects of tobacco as well as tips for handling peer pressure to begin smoking. They will also be invited to complete a survey. Anyone who completes the survey will be eligible for a monthly prize -- a download from popular music site iTunes.

The parents' section of the site will give adults tips on how to talk to teenagers about smoking, research on tobacco and links to the results of the youth survey. The rest of the site will feature tips on how to quit smoking, resources and links. An event calendar will list local tobacco education and cessation classes.

InHome Management Services Inc. is a nursing case management firm in Charles County. Kimberly Bean Website Design is a new firm specializing in Web design and development, Web hosting, multimedia presentations, streaming media, Internet marketing strategies, search engine optimization, graphic design and copy writing.

In St. Mary's County, the health department is teaming up with St. Mary's Hospital and the sheriff's office to conduct several outreach events to support the Great American Smokeout.

The American Cancer Society holds the Great American Smokeout each November to help smokers quit cigarettes for at least one day, in hopes they will quit forever.

The health department will display information on the dangers of secondhand smoke today at the Charlotte Hall, Leonardtown and Lexington Park libraries.

A tobacco use prevention and cessation display will be set up in the main lobby of St. Mary's Hospital. Tumblers filled with smoking cessation information will be placed on the food trays of all inpatients at the hospital today.

The health department has scheduled a pre-quit class at 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at the agency's offices in Leonardtown. Anyone who is considering quitting smoking is encouraged to attend. Participants will also have the opportunity to sign up for the January smoking cessation programs. The class is free.

The St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office will send two officers to each of the county's high schools today. The officers will hand out tobacco use prevention brochures to students as they arrive for school.