Council OKs use of state grants to help seniors, judicial system

January 18, 1995|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The County Council approved bills last night that added several state grants to the current budget to fund programs to assist senior citizens and expedite family-related Circuit Court cases.

The bill appropriating a grant of $110,000 from the Maryland Court of Appeals was approved despite the concerns of at least two council members that some of it would be spent inappropriately.

Councilman John J. Klocko III, a Crofton Republican, questioned spending $12,500 of the grant money for the development of a parent education program when the intent of the legislation was to deal with actual court cases.

"I just think it's an inappropriate direction for it," Mr. Klocko said. "If this was funding coming out of Anne Arundel County taxpayer dollars, I would probably come down on the negative side" in voting on the bill.

Councilman William C. Mulford II said he shared Mr. Klocko's concern and agreed that if county money were being spent, he, too, might vote against the bill. But as a former prosecutor, he said, he saw the need for such parent education programs to intervene in family disputes before they end up in court.

"I think it is very well spent money on the front end that can save us money on the back end," said Mr. Mulford, an Annapolis Republican.

Most of the $110,000 grant will be used to hire two employees to handle family-related cases, such as divorces, custody hearings, child support and adoption. The employees will also assure that the cases are ready for trial, or refer them to other agencies if a trial can be avoided. They will also develop the parenting education program.

Legislation to create a family court system in Maryland has been introduced in the last three General Assembly sessions but has not been passed. The grant received by the county is part of a $750,000 appropriation approved during last year's legislative session to be divided among the state's five largest subdivisions to improve the handling of family-related cases, but to do so within the existing court framework.

Circuit Court Administrator Robert Wallace told the council that about half of all civil cases deal with such family-related matters. Part of the money will be used to pay for mediators for families who would not otherwise be able to afford such services.

The council also approved a bill that appropriates two state grants to the Department of Aging that will pay for programs at two senior centers and will allow 12 more people to receive subsidies to enable them to live at assisted living facilities.

Other bills approved by the council included one that transfers money from other projects to pay for storm drain construction in Cape St. Claire, and another that reduces the number of homeowners involved in the Buckingham Cove Waterways Improvement District.

Also last night, County Executive John G. Gary submitted two resolutions that were introduced by the council chairman. The measures would extend the appointments of Robert A. Beck, the acting police chief, and Stephen D. Halford, the acting fire administrator, until May 31. Public hearings on the resolutions will be held next month.

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