County plans multiservices center $3.2 million project to aid Severn poor WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

January 15, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

County officials announced plans yesterday to build a $3.2 million multiservices center in Severn to help residents of two low-income neighborhoods.

The center would gather under one roof support services for adults and children, including indoor recreation, family planning, project Headstart, and drug and alcohol counseling.

"We as a group of people are in a desperate need," said Kalem Mateen, a 12-year resident of Pioneer City, a housing development off Reece Road. "We believe this center will help put us on an even keel with Severna Park, Arnold, Glen Burnie and the rest of the mainstream population."

The 31,000-square-foot building would be on two acres owned by the Board of Education behind the Van Bokkelen Elementary School. The site is between Pioneer City and Meade Village, a public housing community.

Already, several county agencies have expressed interest in office space, including the YWCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Community Action Agency and the county Health Department.

"It's an idea I've had in the back of my mind for years," said David G. Boschert, the chairman of the County Council, who represents the area. "It is a novel idea for the county."

Coming up with the money will be a problem, Mr. Boschert said, but he hopes a public-private partnership and other "innovative ideas" will allow the doors to open in three years at minimal cost to the county.

He said a nonprofit group will be formed to seek county and state money to build the center. Several businesses have pledged a total of $80,000.

Charles Owens, principal of Van Bokkelen, said the Severn zip code has the third-highest infant mortality rate in the state, that county police responded to more than 3,000 calls for service in 1990 in Pioneer City, and 60 percent of the students at one area school receive a free or discounted breakfast and lunch.

"The poverty, isolation, deficiencies in coordinated services, lack alternatives to delinquent behavior and the negative view of many of the communities in Western Anne Arundel County are but a few of the problems," Mr. Owens said. "With few options of support, the problem can only worsen."

But officials said a center, where people could conveniently get help, could turn such statistics around.

"All these agencies would join their staffs, their dollars and their knowledge to get students and others to learn," said Mary Thomas Newsom, of the Board of Education Equity office. "How could we not do this?"

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