The County Council tentatively has approved $6.8 million worth of fire, library and park projects in the $102 million capital budget proposed by County Executive Charles I. Ecker.
Although the straw votes taken at yesterday's work session were unanimous, they are not binding. Ecker's fire and library projects, which were approved in full, are not likely to be reconsidered. But at least one park project appears to be in trouble.
The council will officially set the property tax rate and vote onthe fiscal 1992 operating and capital budgets May 23. The new fiscalyear begins July 1.
The council tentatively approved $190,000 in planning and engineering money for an 11,000-square-foot fire stationto be built on Old Annapolis Road west of Route 29.
The bulk of the money for the $2.2 million project is to be included in the fiscal1993 budget. The project is scheduled for completion in 1994.
Thecouncil also tentatively approved $500,000 in construction money forthe east Columbia branch library near Owen Brown Elementary School on Cradlerock Way in Columbia. That money is to be added to $6.8 million already authorized by the council. The library will use 37,000 square feet of the 46,000-square-foot structure, while the remaining space will be used as a multipurpose center. The $8.1 million building is scheduled for completion in fiscal 1994.
The other library moneytentatively approved by the council was $151,000 for equipment for the $5.1 million Elkridge branch library on U.S. 1 north of Hunt Club Road. The 15,000-square-foot branch is scheduled for completion in fiscal 1993.
Council member Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, told librarian Marvin Thomas that it is "difficult to keep voting for Elkridge and east Columbia when there is nothing" other than a storefront library in his rural western district.
Thomas told Feaga that the library board was not playing favorites. He said that when previously scheduled projects like the Elkridge branch are postponed, other projects such as the Lisbon branch are also pushed back.
The council is not expected to get a request for planning or land acquisition money for the $4.4 million Lisbon branch until fiscal 1994.
The council deferred action on three recreation and parks projects until Monday but tentatively approved 17 others that cost a total of $6 million.
The recreation and parks project most in trouble appears to be the $4.6 million purchase and renovation of an 8-acre site in Guilford Industrial Park. The site is to become a Recreation and Parks service center.
Department director Jeffrey A. Bourne wants $2.2 million in the coming fiscal year to renovate a 24,000-square foot warehouse the county bought from Ryland Homes.
Council member Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, said she was sure the renovations would not cost nearly that much,and even if they did, she did not think the renovations are as important as spending $1.5 million on the development of a 95-acre community park in her district between Interstate 95 and Route 216.
The $5.1 million community park has been on the books since 1976 but is not scheduled to begin operations until fiscal 1997.
Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, is also eyeing some of the service center money. Gray is concerned that a $75,000 study of improvements needed atthe Roger Carter Neighborhood Center in Ellicott City has been put off another year.
Bourne told the council he believes another year will not undermine programs at the center. He said his department's strategy during this period of tight money is to acquire land now and,with the exception of the service center, build later.
He said the service center is needed because the department is short on space -- so short that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited his department for violations.
With the exception of the education portion of the budget, the council can only accept orcut what the administration recommends. But the council can attempt to bargain.
Except for education projects, the council will take straw votes on the remaining capital expenditures at a work session next Monday night. Straw votes on education projects will begin May 1.