Pendergrass swings ax at budget

April 23, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The Howard County Council tentatively approved only 10 percent of County Executive Charles I. Ecker's proposed $76 million capital budget at a work session yesterday, but even that was a little too rich for Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass.

Ms. Pendergrass, a 1st District Democrat, wanted to pre-empt Mr. Ecker by cutting 10 percent from all construction projects that have not yet been put out to bid. She was only partially successful.

Mr. Ecker had said Wednesday that he planned to send the council an amended capital budget proposal early next week that would reduce construction projects that have not yet been bid by up to 10 percent.

The reductions would not apply to renovations or small projects.

The council can only accept or cut what the executive proposes except for the school board request.

Ms. Pendergrass' first target was a $1.6 million request from Howard Community College to renovate the second and third floors of the Hickory Ridge Road building to provide classrooms and office space.

That building isn't included among Mr. Ecker's cuts, administration officials told Ms. Pendergrass, because it is a renovation, not a new project.

Since the council is not bound by such criteria in making cuts, Ms. Pendergrass repeated her request, looking for support from other council members. There was none. The council tentatively approved the project in its entirety.

Ms. Pendergrass had slightly better luck with a college request for $350,000 to buy an emergency generator that would allow the college to maintain its phone service, run its computers and keep its elevators in service during power outages.

If the college had got along with out a generator for the past 20 years, it could get along without one for the next 20, Ms. Pendergrass argued.

"I can see the need at a hospital," she said, "but I need to be convinced that we need to spend a third of a million dollars on this."

Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a 5th District Republican, felt that a generator was needed, but argued that the cost was too high. Councilman Paul R. Farragut, a 4th District Democrat, suggested that the college might think about buying a portable generator.

The council decided to hold off a vote until after college President Dwight A. Burrill provides "a three-to four-page

economic justification" for the generator.

Ms. Pendergrass next set her sights on the fire department's request for $2.5 million to relocate the Clarksville fire station.

Public Works Director James M. Irvin said he hoped that Ms. Pendergrass would not cut the project by 10 percent because fire stations have unique construction problems. He suggested that land acquisition costs be cut by $200,000 instead.

Ms. Pendergrass said that the council should cut both the $200,000 Mr. Irvin suggested and another 10 percent.

"Unless I know more details, I am reluctant to cut further," Mr. Farragut said. "I think the land acquisition money is a good compromise."

The council agreed and voted to cut $200,000 only. The motion by Ms. Pendergrass to cut another 10 percent died for lack of a second.

Among the projects that emerged unscathed at yesterday's work session were $495,000 for other fire station upgrades and renovations, and $250,000 to replace balconies, doors and make other improvements to the 94 units at the county's Hilltop Housing project.

The council also approved $2.7 million for various county parks and recreation projects.

None of the votes at yesterday's work session is final. The official vote will come May 20 when the county approves the budget and sets the property tax rate.

Mr. Ecker's capital and operating budget proposals kept the tax rate at its current level -- $2.59 per $100 of assessed value. Each cent on the property tax rate generates $595,693 in revenue.

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