PAL center proposed next to school Hillendale residents urged to lobby for money

March 19, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Dismay has turned to excitement for Hillendale community leaders, now that the Ruppersberger administration plans to build a $1.2 million community center next to the local elementary school.

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger outlined the plan, which could become a countywide prototype, at a meeting in his Towson office yesterday. He urged Hillendale residents to lobby legislators for the $600,000 in state money needed to make the plan work; the county would match that amount.

Neighborhood leaders had feared the county would insist on buying and renovating the former Hillendale movie theater for the Police Athletic League center -- a move the community opposed last week because of its location.

But Ruppersberger's plan calls for a 6,600-square-foot building on part of the paved playground next to the school, called Halstead Academy. The school gym would be used for indoor athletics.

The PAL center is to be the focus of after-school and holiday educational, recreational, and drug and juvenile delinquency prevention programs for 120 children a day. The programs are operated by the police, the Recreation and Parks Department, the schools and the Community Counseling and Resource Center in Cockeysville in a coordinated effort.

It is the newest twist on the original proposal, which called for a $2.2 million building with a gym. That proved too expensive.

"Your neighborhood is on the bubble," Ruppersberger told Paula Warrenfeltz, president of the 400-home Northbrook Community Improvement Association in Greater Hillendale, and Donna Spicer, president of the Towson-Loch Raven Community Council.

"The whole county is on the bubble," he added, emphasizing his commitment to shore up older neighborhoods threatened by urban blight and crime. Hillendale is a 1,200-home community just over the city-county line, east of Loch Raven Boulevard.

"The community is extremely appreciative of the backing you've given us," Warrenfeltz said during the meeting.

Spicer, too, expressed gratitude and said all county agencies working with children in Hillendale "are going above and beyond" their normal duties to help.

Anthony Green, a former Baltimore Colts defensive tackle who is coordinator for PAL programs for the Recreation and Parks Department, also praised the new concept because it will give younger children easy access to the center.

"We were more concerned we would lose the majority of kids" if the theater on Taylor Avenue became the site for the PAL center. Now, he said, even the youngest children will be right next door when school lets out.

James Anthony Barr, the police officer assigned to the Hillendale PAL program, likes the new building. "That design is perfect for what we need," he said.

The PAL program is confined now to the school gym.

Pub Date: 3/19/97

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