Fees for recreation, storm water? Readers doubt they're a...

LETTERS

February 09, 1997

Fees for recreation, storm water? Readers doubt they're a 0) good idea

Norris West's Jan. 19 column, "Fees at county parks -- what a terrible idea," criticized an idea which few people would be in disagreement. However, I feel the basic problem was not addressed.

Clearly from any viewpoint, facilities, budget, personnel, etc., the Columbia Association is the dominant recreational provider in Howard County. The problems of county Recreation and Parks is but the first sign of the dichotomy between Columbia and Howard County.

The mandate to Rec and Parks to provide recreation on a pay-for-service basis places the department squarely in competition with the CA. On a comparison basis, the Department of Rec and Parks is expected to service triple the number of residents on one-quarter the budget dollars of CA.

CA is proposing the construction of two major recreational facilities, the Sports Park in Harpers Choice and the Westside Recreational Facility in River Hill.

If a recreational activity has the potential for profit, the CA has it or will build it. This leaves the county with no means to raise revenue to supplement any revenue-producing facilities.

Columbia is peaking at 37 percent of the county population. In the next decade, Columbia will cease to grow and the remainder of the county will accelerate its growth. The relatively densely populated areas of Columbia, as its infrastructure ages, will develop problems typical of a city. This will result in pressure for solutions requiring county funds.

Since the CA has historically supplied social and recreational programs (at a price) for its residents, the anticipated county response will be underwhelming.

I think it is important to develop a vision of the future. Any actions which will develop and encourage partnerships between the county and CA will be helpful.

Donald Dunn

Ellicott City

Re: The Howard County storm water fee proposal (Jan. 22). A tax by any other name is still a tax. You can't hide from this one, Chuck Ecker.

At least have the decency to call it a tax and allow us the deduction on our federal return. Believe it or not, we have not forgotten the "trash fee," which took the place of responsible management.

The present administration of Howard County has a record of depending on semantics to keep voters off balance and confused on the issues.

We are certain that the proposed $50 fee will grow and prosper if we taxpayers allow this course to prevail.

I don't feel that it is by mere coincidence that two members of the Rouse Co. sit on this storm water committee. After all, development by the Rouse Co. may be impacted by the outcome of decisions made by this committee.

The council should be the leader in seeking solutions on these kinds of problems. Perhaps giving up part of the "understood" $6,000 personal expense accounts they each enjoy (in addition to their salaries) would set a good example to the rest of the bureaucracy. I urge the voters of Howard County to let our elected officials know that our pockets are closed.

Bernadette King

Lisbon

State's attorney responds on diversion plan

I am compelled to respond to serious misimpressions left by your article of Jan. 26, regarding District Court prosecutions.

During the several hours of interviews with your reporter, we thoroughly explained how the state's attorney's office District Court Diversion Program is available only to first-time offenders charged with simple possession of alcohol or marijuana.

The article discusses our program but then, as an apparent comparison, quotes a Harford County deputy state's attorney about drunken driving and the fact that their office does not divert such cases from full prosecution. Neither do we. And that fact was made clear to the reporter.

Let's be clear: Our diversion program is not available to drunken or drugged drivers or for any other serious offense.

These offenders are always vigorously prosecuted. The article seems deliberately written to obscure this fact, however. In fact, as discussed with your reporter, state records show that our prosecution/conviction rate on DWI cases is very high. In 1996, we prosecuted 86 percent of those cases and obtained convictions 96 percent of the time.

Our Diversion Program is considered a model of progressive prosecution in the state. It conserves limited resources by waiving prosecution of relatively minor, first-time offenses in favor of more focused prosecution of serious offenders, including drunken drivers, domestic abuse and repeat offenders. Diversion does not mean the offender is let off scot-free.

Howard County has much reason to be proud of the accomplishments of our District Court attorneys. They certainly deserve a far better shake than was afforded in your article.

arna McLendon

Ellicott City

The writer is state's attorney for Howard County.

Watching a deer suffer a slow death

For more than a week, I watched a handsome eight-point buck come in and out of my backyard doing his best to maneuver with a broken leg (hip).

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