Storm Has Chilling Effect On Hot-air Headquarters

December 22, 1991|By James M. Coram

The Scene -- Couty currents and undercurrents

Like most legislative assistants, Barbara Russell usually is an inconspicuous presence at County Council meetings.

But not last week.

Last week, she used every opportunity to mime for the cable TV cameras covering the council meeting. Her performance had to be pantomime, because -- like children -- legislative assistants are to be seenand not heard.

Each time Russell appeared on camera, she added a new bit of the act. She showed up first in a long winter coat, rubbing her hands. Next, she appeared with the collar of her winter coat turned up over the back of her neck. She folded her hands tightly underher arms and hopped on one foot and then the other. On her third appearance, the scarf attached to Russell's coat was pulled tightly about her neck. She made shivering motions and blew on her fingers.

Later, in the warmth of the council offices, Russell confessed, "I justhope Becky was watching."

Becky is Rebecca Horvath, county director of general services. It is Horvath who is responsible for controlling the temperature in county buildings.

Monday night, it felt as though the heat in the council chambers had been turned off completely.

Council members said they were producing hot air and were therefore unaffected by the cold.

In fact, the meeting droned on so long that just before midnight, Council Member C. Vernon Gray set the clock back 20 minutes to allow the council to vote on legislation. By law, the council can vote on pending legislation only on the day advertised.

At six minutes before the "new" midnight, the council went into legislative session. Chairman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, immediately called a recess, during which members and aides rushed to their offices, a good 20 degrees warmer.

Twenty minutes later, a fully warmed council returned to pass two bills and two resolutions unanimously. They were in the cold less than two minutes.

Horvath, who said she helps her children with homework Mondays rather than watch the council on cable television, admitted the heat was off in the council chamber. She said a Sunday night storm caused the problem.

"We have a person on call just for such emergencies," she said. "Next time, instead of suffering like that, someone should call him."

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