Scrooged By Budget, County Trims Trimmings

ROUTE 2 -- A weekly journey through Anne Arundel County

December 11, 1991|By Elise Armacost Chris Kaltenbach

It's beginning to look a little like Christmas at Anne Arundel government offices.

Very little.

There won't be any candles in the window this year. No garland. No tinsel. No wreaths. No poinsettias. No parties, unless workers footthe bill themselves.

"This year, we're doing practically nothing," said Louise Hayman, County Executive Robert R. Neall's press secretary.

In previous years, there have been candles in nearly every window, five artificial and six live wreaths at the Arundel Center in Annapolis, an 8-foot wreath at Arundel Center North in Glen Burnie and"angel trees" in 10 buildings.

Workers used to spend two weeks stringing lights on 40 trees in the plaza in front of Arundel Center North. Two men would work two full days to decorate two trees in front of the building.

Yuletide decorations cost the county $500 last year -- hardly a fortune.

This year, local government will spend less than $100 to decorate two live trees, one in front of the Arundel Center and another in front of Arundel Center North. There'll be a little garland on the courthouse. And county employees who accompany Neall on a "Christmas hike" through Annapolis Dec. 20 can enjoy some cookies and cider.

But that's it.

With county employees taking paycuts and no end to the recession in sight, Neall didn't think it would be appropriate to deck the halls with too much glitz, Hayman said.

Besides, "Bobby hates Christmas. He always says that Scrooge wimped out in the end," said Hayman.

A few county employees have been heard to grumble that Neall's frugality crusade has gone too far. "When you're feeling down, a few candles in the window and a little tinsel can go a long way," someone said at a political gathering last week.

Also concerned about the quashing of seasonal spirit was CountyCouncilman Edward Middlebrooks, D-Severn, who set out to save Christmas in Glen Burnie as soon as he got wind of plans to do away with the annual tree-lighting ceremony at Arundel Center North. Middlebrooksnegotiated with Neall, who overruled Director of Urban Renewal Victor Sulin's decision to cancel the event. The ceremony is back on the schedule, set for 7 tomorrow night.

"Christmas is back in Glen Burnie," the triumphant councilman proclaimed last week.

Guess who's scheduled to light up the tree?

You guessed it, so don't start calling him "Ebenezer Neall" just yet.

"He's not really a Scrooge," said Anne Mannix, a county public information assistant. "He's just nota real frou-frou kind of guy. It's not just Christmas. He doesn't like big occasions in general. That's just the way he is."

Mannix predicts the executive will make like Scrooge and succumb to holiday cheer in the end, anyway.

"When it comes down to it," she said, "he really is a mushball."

HOUSE HUNTER LAMENTS

A few random thoughts,collected while house hunting in Anne Arundel County:

* How did we ever get around in this county before I-97? Or before the widening of Dorsey Road? Travel between Odenton and Linthicum must have taken days before those roads were enlarged.

* There's a wonderful old house in Odenton, just off Route 175 near Nevada Avenue. It's almost 100 years old, it's been occupied by the same family since it was built, and it's going to be torn down eventually because the land it sitson has been rezoned for town center development. I knew something about that town center concept stank.

* I know I shouldn't get annoyed when I tell people I'm thinking about moving to Pasadena and they congratulate me on finding a job in California. But I do.

* When did Hammonds Ferry Road go through a change-of-life and become Aviation Boulevard? And why, when "Hammonds Ferry" has so much more class than "Aviation?"

* Because most of Anne Arundel has been subdivided in the last 25 to 30 years, it's tough finding old houses outside of Annapolis and some parts of North County.

* As a corollary to whatI just mentioned, I'm getting tired of Realtors trying to sell me onthe benefits of a new home. If I wanted a new home, I'd ask for it. But I'd rather have an old home with lots of personality.

* When awaterfront home is on a creek that has been closed to swimming, boating and just about everything else because of pollution, that sort oftakes away from the charm.

* There oughta be a law that prices must be listed whenever a house is advertised in the paper for sale. Sure would save a lot of time on the phone.

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