Hayden's silence on budget cuts drives rumor mill BALTIMORE COUNTY

February 02, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Rose Miller of Lansdowne, worried that her public library might fall victim in Baltimore County's budget crisis, delivered a pre-emptive strike yesterday: 530 signatures from people demanding that the library be spared.

The only problem is there has been no indication the Lansdowne library is slated for closing. There is only rumor.

The rumor mill is working overtime in the county. Everyone knows County Executive Roger B. Hayden will announce major budget cuts next week. But they don't know what will be cut. Mr. Hayden has imposed a near total blackout of specific information, leaving county workers and others to grasp at the slightest bit of news.

For Mrs. Miller, the news came late last week when a patron of the nearby senior center visited, and returned saying the Lansdowne branch is slated for closing. Once the word hit the senior center, it spread rapidly and the petition campaign to save the library began, said Mrs. Miller.

Her petitions are the first concrete manifestation of public worry that the budget cuts may force the closing of libraries, senior centers, even fire houses. The county library's Board of Trustees is to meet tonight in closed-door session to approve the final list of library cuts.

So far, Mr. Hayden hasn't given any specifics. He has said only that 400 to 500 county jobs will be cut permanently, with potentially several hundred layoffs when the programs those jobs serve are cut. He also has said repeatedly that "nothing is off the table" and has refused to guarantee that police officers won't be laid off.

Mr. Hayden is scheduled to announce the cuts Feb. 11, and in addition will announce separate moves intended to close a $31.7 million budget gap.

Only department heads and their deputies know what's up, and they've been prohibited from disclosing any specifics. One county employee, asked by a reporter for news on the cuts, said she knew nothing, then called back to make sure her comment would not be attributed.

Some employees fear developers have pressed Mr. Hayden into using the cuts to get rid of the county's most thorough environmental protection officials. Yesterday, Mr. Hayden squelched that rumor and denied he's had any pressure from builders.

"I haven't been invited to any developer's homes for dinner," he said, joking.

The unease in county government is especially thick among middle management. Though these employees earn more than rank-and-file merit system workers, they are not protected by labor contracts, which Mr. Hayden has said he'll honor.

County Council members say they too are out of the loop, even though controversial moves such as closing a library or senior centers may be in the offing. This is an awkward position for an elected official, as Councilwoman Berchie L. Manley, R-1st, will attest. Mrs. Manley, who represents Lansdowne, Catonsville and Arbutus, said she's been unable to confirm or scotch the rumor about closing the library, located in the far southwestern corner of the county, in a poor, isolated community without many public resources.

"You just don't close libraries in those areas," said Mrs. Manley.

The library, on Third Avenue, is used by students from four area elementary schools, and from students at nearby Lansdowne middle and high schools, said Mrs. Miller. The next closest branch is in Arbutus, off Sulphur Spring Road next to Interstate-95; not too far away as the crow flies, but a drive of twists and turns.

"It's so small," Mrs. Miller said of her library. "You could put Mr. Hayden's office in it and it would fill up the building."

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