Senate splits on Owings Mills, Dundalk courts STATE HOUSE REPORT

March 04, 1993|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Staff Writer

The Senate gave approval to keeping a district court in Dundalk yesterday, but it narrowly defeated an attempt to retain the court in Owings Mills.

The two courts were eliminated in a capital budget bill passed during a special session of the General Assembly last year. It called for keeping courts only in Towson, Essex and Catonsville when a new courthouse opens in Towson in late 1994. The change went unnoticed by Baltimore County legislators at the time.

In response, Sen. Norman R. Stone, a Democrat from Dundalk, put in a bill to save the Dundalk courthouse, which he said was needed to sustain the area's revitalization. He accepted an amendment from Sen. Janice Piccinini, a Baltimore County Democrat whose district includes Owings Mills, to keep that courthouse open.

Yesterday, Sens. John A. Cade, an Anne Arundel Republican, and Charles H. Smelser, a Carroll Democrat, defended the elimination of the two courts, a move that was backed by Robert F. Sweeney, chief judge of the state's district court system.

Mr. Cade said that while a facility in Dundalk might be needed to support revitalization, an Owings Mills court was "totally unnecessary."

Senator Piccinini and Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Democrat from the same area, defended the Owings Mills facility, saying that area's population could support one.

"A lot of the people in the Liberty Road area use this courthouse," Senator Hollinger said. "We do not have good cross-county bus service in Baltimore County, so it is difficult for many of these people to get to Towson."

The Senate first defeated the amendment calling for an Owings Mills facility by a vote of 23 to 20 before approving the bill for the Dundalk court, 39-5. The bill now goes to the House, where it is expected to face tougher going.

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