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Water employees charged with extortion

Washington County prosecutors announced indictments yesterday charging two former county waterworks officials with extortion schemes in which they are said to have asked construction contractors for valuable equipment in return for favorable treatment.

James E. Bishop Jr., 61, of Williamsport, former deputy director of the Department of Water Quality, was charged with two counts of extortion involving the shakedown of two contractors for laser levels in August and October 2004, Deputy State’s Attorney Joseph S. Michael said. The surveying devices are worth $1,000 to $1,500 apiece, Mr. Michael said.

In return, Mr. Bishop took no action on an inspector’s findings that the contractors — Ferguson Waterworks of Newport News, Va., and Charles E. Brake Co. of St. Thomas, Pa. — had installed underground pipes and fittings that didn’t match contract specifications, Mr. Michael said. It would have cost each contractor $20,000 to $30,000 to replace the equipment, he said.

In both cases, the equipment used was different from, but not functionally inferior to, the specified parts.

Jeffrey L. Shetron, 48, of Abbottstown, Pa., a former project coordinator, was charged with attempted extortion of a contractor in an attempt to get a gasoline-powered generator in return for favorable progress reports in June 2006.

“Shetron indicated that things would go much easier for them if they placed a generator that certainly would be of value over $500 in the back of his truck,” Mr. Michael said. The contractor refused, he said.

The charges are felonies. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.


500-car drive-in may open in spring

What’s old may soon be new again in Washington County, where theater owner Alan Ackerman is looking to reopen the drive-in movie theater behind his Hagerstown 10 Cineplex.

It would be one of only two drive-ins in the state, joining one in Baltimore County.

Mr. Ackerman said the drive-in would have room for 500 cars and would have a concession stand and restrooms.

The county demanded a new site plan for the drive-in, which means opening night will have to wait until next spring.


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