A United Methodist Church agency tried with mixed results Thursday to ease the fears of Fallston residents about its plans for a proposed$5 million foster care complex.
Residents say the facility would put a strain on water supplies in an area of homes with wells and septic systems.
"I'm really leaving with the same concerns," said James Martinek,who owns land adjoining the church agency's 26-acre site at Harford and Reckord roads. "I'm opposed to the facility not because it's nextto me, but because it belongs in an area with public utilities."
Another nearby resident, Rick Romagnoli, said he was reassured following the meeting with church officials. "I have some minor concerns, but I'm sure we can work together to resolve them," he said.
Romagnoli said he got a commitment from the agency's director, Claude Libis, that a committee to work with citizens would be appointed and that the committee would remain in place after the foster care complex opens.
The agency, The Board of Child Care of the Baltimore Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church Inc., wants to build a group of five foster care homes to serve as many as 60 children, ages 2 through 12. Teen-age siblings of the younger children might also be housed there.
The meeting with residents at Fallston United Methodist Church was part of the agency's latest effort to drum up support for the project before county zoning hearings later this month. The agency also has sent letters to area residents providing more information about the project and asking for support in its request for a specialexception for the agriculturally zoned property.
Zoning hearings have been scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 16 and
23 in the Harford County Council chambers, Level A of the County Courthouse in Bel Air.
The board proposed the project last year, but delayed action when it ran into community opposition.
For example, Salvatore Glorioso, president of the Fallston Meadows Homeowners Association, said Thursdayhis group of 40 families has persuaded Harford's people's counsel, Robert Kahoe, to accept its case in opposition to the project.
"I want to make it clear we oppose this facility," Glorioso said. "As a representative of the association, I'm telling you we are not willing to negotiate with you or your organization. Any families that do so are not members of our association."
In recent weeks, community opposition has centered around concerns about the strain on the ground water system that serves the area at Harford and Reckord roads. The 50residents attending the meeting listened quietly as Bel Air engineerDavid Wang said that the project has received a state ground water usage permit for up to 6,300 gallons of water per day.
"They don't just give these things out," Wang said.
Wang said two septic systems would be built, and that their use would be alternated because "that will give the septic field time to breathe and take a rest."
Water to fill a planned swimming pool would be trucked in, and faucets and other water-use devices would be designed to conserve water, Wangsaid.
Other questions from residents included how many teen-agersthe facility would accept, supervision and whether children old enough to attend county schools would bring behavior problems into classrooms.
"If we as parents try to teach our children the right morals, to know right from wrong, wouldn't our children be a good influenceon these so-called 'bad kids' some people are worried about," asked Diane Calderone, who wore a lapel pin supporting the project.
Calderone's remarks drew applause, and when she asked whether area residents would be able to volunteer to visit the children at the foster home, Libis said, "Honey, I love you. One of the most important things these children need is to be told 'I love you.'"
Libis said children would be referred to the foster care facility by the Department ofSocial Services, Juvenile Services or through private referrals.