WESTMINSTER — Councilwoman Rebecca Orenstein believes Westminster should join the many jurisdictions in the state and designate Martin Luther King's birthday a city holiday.
"This will bring us in league with the county, state and other forms of government," she said. "On his birthday,the county government is closed, banks are closed, and so are the schools. By joining these others, it would be a lot easier for families."
Most of the local governments have made the civil-rights leader'sbirthday a holiday, according to the results of a survey Orenstein obtained from the Institute for Government Service at the University of Maryland College Park.
According to the annual survey, only about 20 of the 73 local Maryland government jurisdictions surveyed -- counties and towns -- did not make King's birthday a paid holiday.
The survey also showed that in Carroll County, Union Bridge, Hampsteadand Manchester are among those that include it as a holiday.
"It appears that it is heavily observed," said Orenstein.
One proposedmethod of making King's birthday a holiday is to substitute it for an existing city holiday.
City workers now receive 10 paid holidays: New Year's Day, Washington's Birthday, Good Friday, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Thanksgiving Friday, Christmas Day and the employee's birthday.
City workers, who have become used to the holiday schedule, will probably resist substituting King's birthday for an existing holiday.
"I am personally drawn to making it another holiday," said Orenstein. "We'll have to look atthe budget and see how it can be done."
Designating King's birthday a city holiday will add to the cost of government, opponents contend. But Orenstein said that the additional costs are not as great as people imagine.
City taxpayers pay $9,855.08 in payroll costs eachworking day or holiday. The difference is that on a holiday, city employees are not at their jobs.
When the city has a paid holiday, it not only has to pay the normal payroll cost, but it also must pay overtime for those city employees who have to work.
To declare King's birthday a holiday would mean paying overtime for 15 police officers, five dispatchers, three water plant operators and three sewer plant operators. Their overtime costs would be $3,433.52, according to figures that Orenstein obtained.
Under the provisions of the ordinance that Orenstein is proposing, the paid holiday would not occur until 1994 at the earliest.
She would like the mayor to sign a proclamation in 1993 that King's birthday would be a paid holiday, but thatthe first paid holiday would begin in 1994.
Orenstein said she isnot prepared to introduce a ordinance creating the holiday at Monday's council meeting.
"I am still collecting information," Orensteinsaid, adding that she also wants to talk to other council members before she introduces the measure.
Orenstein said she may instead introduce the measure at the council's April 27 meeting.