Parks board postpones more projects Elkridge facility for indoor sports among those delayed

Savings to top $2 million

Residents' outcry spurs speed-up for Holiday Hills Park

January 18, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Recreation and Parks Board voted last night to delay more than $2 million worth of projects scheduled for next year, including a much-coveted indoor facility for tennis, lacrosse and touch football near Elkridge, because of mounting financial woes in the county.

The board decided to speed up the proposed $447,000 Holiday Hills Park just south of Columbia, citing a public outcry over earlier plans to delay that project.

"It's all a matter of placing the resources where they can do the most good," said Jeffrey Bourne, the parks director, who proposed last month construction delays at eight parks. "Unfortunately, we all know there are virtually no resources to place."

Planning for Holiday Hills Park will continue for 18 months, and construction is scheduled to begin in the 1998 fiscal year.

Susan Dolinka, a resident of the Holiday Hills area who has pushed for the park for years, said last night that she was pleased, but cautious, about the decision.

"I'd like to know where they are going to get the money in '98 that they don't have in '97," she said.

Her neighborhood, bordered by Route 32, U.S. 29, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the Middle Patuxent River, has no park. Children ride their skateboards and play football and roller hockey in the streets.

The parks board had proposed delaying the project until 2002. But after a hearing last month at which 21 residents spoke against the delay, County Executive Charles I. Ecker recommended moving the project up to 1998.

Mr. Ecker also recommended allocating $150,000 for planning studies next year for a golf course in the West Friendship area in the western part of the county.

Overall, however, last night's meeting was about delaying construction.

Mr. Bourne hopes to save about $1.8 million by delaying construction of the indoor recreation facility at Rockburn Branch Regional Park near Elkridge.

Mr. Ecker has recommended that the county save an additional $500,000 to $600,000 by delaying plans to build four or five ball fields in the area, but the parks board will ask him to fund those fields next year, citing heavy demand.

The board also decided last night to delay $418,000 in improvements at Savage Park.

Mr. Ecker could decide to delay more projects, which the county typically funds by borrowing money.

The executive said the county is paying too much interest on its existing debt -- about 11.5 percent of its $329 million operating budget. He wants to reduce that percentage and has said that schools and roads will take priority among new projects that are built with borrowed money.

This year, the parks department received $8.6 million in loans to fund new projects. Next year, Mr. Bourne expects to receive less than $3 million and might not get any. "It wouldn't surprise me," he said last night.

For now, though, the plan is to spend about $2.5 million on new projects.

Last month, the parks board proposed delaying construction of eight parks and seven proposed sites for softball, baseball, soccer and football fields, including:

* The Middle Patuxent Environment Area in West Columbia.

* A 20-acre park in the Allenford-North Farms community just west of Ellicott City.

* Renovation of the Troy Historic Site, on the northeast corner of the Route 100-Interstate 95 interchange.

* Two baseball fields and a combined football and soccer field at East Columbia's Hopewell Park, near Snowden River Parkway and Rustling Leaf.

* Athletic fields in West Columbia's Clary's Forest neighborhood.

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