Crofton board votes to keep psychological counseling job Nonbinding action sparks debate

November 16, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Crofton's psychological counseling position narrowly survived last night, as the civic association once again debated whether the community needs the specialized service that cost $53,000 a year, including the counselor's salary.

Board members tied 5-5 on a straw vote on an amendment to cut the community counselor from a full-time to a part-time position, in effect killing the motion. The board then tied on a straw vote to fund the full budgeted amount of $53,000.

But the second tie, which came on a vote on the original proposal to fund the counseling service, was broken by Edwin F. Dosek, the civic association president, who voted to fund the full budgeted amount.

The votes were all nonbinding; the vote that counts will likely occur later this month when the board decides on the entire $586,000 spending plan, a 5 percent increase over this year's budget.

But the controversial issue is hardly over. While funding the counselor's position for fiscal year 1995, the issue of whether to have a counselor will be a referendum item on the May ballot, in which new board members are elected. The board was undecided if that vote would affect Ms. Smith's position for fiscal year 1995, which starts July 1.

The votes last night came after a 90-minute debate that included impassioned pleas from people on both sides of the issue, from both board members and community residents.

Crofton's special tax district has had a community counselor for years. The service is free to residents, who see Linda R. Smith, who earns about $29,000 a year, for a variety of reasons, from alcoholism to family problems to drug abuse.

In 1989, some board members attempted to eliminate the position and hire an independent contractor. The action was met with a barrage of criticism from residents who picketed a board meeting and overwhelmingly voted down the proposal at a meeting.

Last night, some residents again spoke out against the counseling position.

"I want to make it crystal clear that I am no selfish or mean-spirited," said resident Anne Green. "I just happen to believe that government is running our lives. I don't think the tax district has any business in the counseling business."

But Frank Sallustio, who moved to Crofton 10 years ago, said the counseling position one of many factors that sold him on moving to the community of 10,000.

"Because the counselor was there, I took advantage of it," he told the board. "And it helped me. I think one of the problems today is that we put too much emphasis on police and not enough emphasis on family guidance."

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