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Gas line break being repaired

PERRYVILLE — At approximately 11 a.m. on Monday, a gas line at the Hatem Bridge Plaza near Perryville ruptured, causing school closings and traffic delays.

Richard Yost, spokesman for BGE, which owns the damaged line, said the gas was turned off and repairs were made. According to Yost, the repairs to the two-inch main were completed by 3:30 p.m. on Monday. The only building affected by the rupture was the neighboring MDTA toll both.

“There’s been no customer impact,” Yost said.

Yost noted that BGE employees were on-site and noticed the line rupture immediately.

The roads and the Hatem Bridge have been reopened to traffic since the repair of the rupture.

A contractor working on the Maryland Transportation Authority Toll Plaza at the Hatem Bridge struck a natural gas line around 11 a.m. Monday causing evacuations and detours according to police.

Lt. Daniel Bowser, commander of the Hatem Bridge Police detachment, said the entire intersection at Route 40 and Aiken Avenue was closed for several hours and Bowser said traffic was being detoured onto Interstate 95.

According to Cecil County Public Schools Spokesperson Kelly Keeton, Perryville Middle School dismissed at 1:00 p.m.

Next-door to PVMS, Good Shepherd Catholic School had also decided to cancel classes for the day.

Perryville Police Chief Bob Nitz said parents were allowed to come get their students from PVMS if they chose and many did, as indicated by the lines of cars. Nitz did send officers out earlier in the day to talk to those living closest to the broken line.

“My officers are going door to door on Richmond Street telling people what’s going on and giving them the option to evacuate,” said Nitz.


Editor’s Note: This story has been updated as further information became available.

CASA of Cecil County partners with Netflix star "Mr. Christmas" to bring holiday cheer

NORTH EAST — CASA of Cecil County, with the help of Netflix star Benjamin Bradley, better known as “Mr. Christmas,” transformed the tiki bar at Woody’s Crab House in North East into an ode to Christmas joy for the fifth annual Festival of Trees.

“Christmas is really about kids, and the work they do is really unparalleled,” said Bradley. “How could I not help?”

Bradley judged more than 50 trees, decorated by a variety of community organizations. Each tree competed in one of three categories: regional, traditional and whimsical. Community Outreach Coordinator Michael Welker approached Bradley after watching his Netflix show, “Holiday Home Makeover with Mr. Christmas.”

Bradley looks for several elements in a tree, such as how full the tree is with decorations, a theme and light spacing.

“It’s Christmas, it’s all about the feeling you get from it,” Bradley said.

Bradley contributed a tree of his own, inspired by the Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Christmas Carol.” Bradley also decorated the tiki bar to give it a festive look. Bradley’s show features him helping people have a special holiday, from helping someone blend Hanukkah and Christmas traditions to creating a firehouse display honoring someone’s late father.

Bradley became a T.V. star after a friend of his who ran a production company was impressed by one of his Christmas parties. That friend shot a sizzle reel showcasing Bradley’s work, leading Netflix to pick up the concept as a television show.

“I was too naive to be nervous,” Bradley said. “I just did what I do.”

For the event, the Cecil County Public Library staff created homemade Christmas decorations, such as owls and pinecones, out of book pages.

“It’s a really nice way to give back to the community,” CCPL staff member Tracy Alexander said.

The winner for the traditional tree was sponsored by the Elkton Memorial VFW Post 8475, and decorated by the Stewart Company. For the whimsical category the winning tree sponsored by H&B Plumbing and decorated by Girl Scout Troop 1319. The Elkton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 124 won for the regional category.

Other organizations that decorated or sponsored a tree at the event included the Cecil County Department of Social Services kinship navigation program, which helps families who are raising another relatives child, Cecil Solidarity, the Perryville Outreach Program, the Cecil County Department of Emergency Services and others.

“This is the most trees we’ve ever had,” Welker said.

Money raised from the event will help CASA fund a transitional housing program for youths who are about to age out of foster care so they can ease into adulthood and gain the skills necessary to become successful. CASA currently has 78 advocates working with 80 children to help represent their interests in court. There are currently 140 foster children in Cecil County.

The Festival of Trees is a silent auction lasting from Nov. 13 to Dec. 4. Every tree at the festival is available to bid on. Readers interested in bidding on a tree, or for more information about the event can go to CASA’s website at https://www.cecilcasa.org/festival-of-trees-2021.

“It brings people together especially now that we’re recovering from COVID,” attendee Katie Bird said.

Port Deposit sewer plant is celebrated

PORT DEPOSIT — Although it has been online since April and its predecessor is just a memory, Town of Port Deposit officials were joined by Cecil County representatives on Tuesday to officially cut the ribbon on the new $10 million sewer treatment facility.

Scott Flanigan, director of the county’s Department of Public Works, told those in attendance at the South Main Street site that the Maryland Bay Restoration Fund paid for 72% of the cost of the new membrane system, which currently treats about 8,000 gallons of waste daily. It’s rated to handle up to 150,000 gallons per day and can be expanded to 250,000.

For Tom Knight, a member of the Port Deposit town council, there was a sense of relief that the project was completed.

“It’s so nice to see it go from something on paper to physically here and making it a reality,” Knight said, “We’ve been talking about it for a long, long time.”

Wayne Tome, former mayor of the waterfront town, said this project is a big step in the town’s overall revival.

“We’ve been waiting for this and for Bainbridge and for the tax base to grow,” Tome said. “We’re not looking back.”

Port Deposit turned its wastewater services over to Cecil County more than a decade ago. Artesian took over the water services.

Tome added that removal of the old wastewater plant is another plus for Port Deposit.

“This opens up the waterfront because that eyesore of a plant is gone,” Tome said. “We’ve transitioned from business on the waterfront to a waterfront living, boating and foodie town.

With groundbreaking soon to come on the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center property, Tome said the future of the town is looking bright.

“This is the nucleus of an upswing in the quality of life in Port Deposit,” Tome said.

Cecil County Council President Bob Meffley remembers working in that old wastewater plant.

“At the old sewer plant you worked fast when the tide was coming up,” Meffley said.

Cecil County Executive Danielle Hornberger told the crowd she never thought she would be saying she was excited to talk about wastewater.

“But we’re excited to see this next level of technology in Port Deposit,” Hornberger said of the enhanced nutrient removal system that will send cleaner discharge water back to the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay.

“It’s a much higher level of clean for our bay and we’re going to have a wastewater treatment plant that is out of the floodplain,” Hornberger said.

MTPM, the developer at the lead of the Bainbridge property, donated the land to the county where the new membrane system was built.

“That’s the only thing that was free,” Flanigan noted of the project – which cost a total of $10,536,786. Maryland’s so-called ‘flush tax’ paid $7.5 million and the county went to the bond market for the remaining $2.9 million. The construction was carried out by ACE, or American Contracting and Environmental Services based in Columbia, Md.

Flanigan acknowledged the years it took to get the system replaced.

“Some in this crowd thought they’d never live to see this day,” Flanigan said. “Hopefully it will have been worth the wait.”

Shelby Huss, owner of Aspen Lee Boutique at 230 B South Bridge Street in Elkton, accepts a proclamation from Cecil County Executive Danielle Hornberger at the grand opening of Huss’ new boutique.

Former Perryville priest pleads guilty to lying to the FBI

PHILADELPHIA — A former priest who lives in Perryville has pleaded guilty to four criminal charges relating to him lying to FBI agents who were investigating a case, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The defendant, Robert Brennan, 83, entered his guilty pleas to four counts of making materially false statements in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the United State government last week during a federal court hearing in Philadelphia, prosecutors said. U.S. District Court Judge Anita B. Brody accepted Brennan’s guilty pleas, prosecutors added.

As of Tuesday, it was not clear the penalties Brennan faces and when he would be sentenced. USAGO representatives could not be reached by phone on Tuesday for additional information, after that agency had issued a press release regarding Brennan entering guilty pleas.

Federal prosecutors filed the four-count indictment against Brennan in September 2019, and those charges stem from an April 2019 interview in which the defendant “made a number of false statements” while FBI agents questioned him, the USAGO reported.

The following is background provided by USAGO representatives and Cecil Whig archives:

Brennan had served in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1993 to 2004 as a priest at Resurrection of Our Lord parish in northeast Philadelphia.

In September 2013, prosecutors assigned to the USAGO’s Philadelphia office filed criminal charges against Brennan — alleging that he had sexually abused an altar boy numerous times during a three-year period more than a decade earlier, during a time frame in which the boy would have been 11 to 14 and Brennan, who was the assistant pastor at that point, would have been 60 to 63.

Perryville Police Department officers arrested Brennan, then 75, on Sept. 25, 2013 at his Perryville home, where he has lived since 2005, and then he was extradited to Philadelphia.

But in October 2013, approximately one month later, the alleged victim in the case, Sean McIlmail, 26, died from a drug overdose, which resulted in federal prosecutors dismissing the criminal charges against Brennan. McIlmail was a key prosecution witness in that federal criminal case against Brennan, the USAGO reported at the time. The USAGO identified McIlmail as the alleged victim.

McIlmail’s family filed a civil lawsuit against Brennan and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in November 2013. Then in May 2018, some four and a half year later, that lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Federal prosecutors reported that, during an April 2019 interview with FBI agents, Brennan made several false statements. Brennan falsely claimed, for example, that he did not know McIlmail, his parents and his brother before the filing of the 2013 federal criminal case against him, according to prosecutors.

(It also was not clear, as of Tuesday, why FBI agents conducted an interview with Brennan in April 2019 — after the federal criminal case against him had been dismissed and the civil lawsuit against him and the archdiocese had been settled.)

“Making false statements to the FBI is a serious crime that threatens the integrity of our justice system, and we will hold offenders accountable no matter who they are,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams commented.

The case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philadelphia Police Department, prosecutors said. U.S. Attorney Michelle L. Morgan is prosecuting the case, prosecutors added.

Perryville senior Zach Clarke breaks a tackle during a football playoff game at Perrryville High School.

‘The Ladies of Larkspur’ team were some of the around 150 horse riders who walked the grounds of historic Mount Harmon Plantation as part of the annual Paper Chase Fundraiser.