Residents to get chance to solve woes Pioneer Drive community meets with county executive

'We need your help'

Decision to employ private social work company put on hold

March 27, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Residents and property owners in the Pioneer Drive area got news on two fronts last night -- they'll have a role in solving community problems, and the hiring of a Washington-based company to provide social workers has been put on hold.

In a meeting with about 50 area residents last night, Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary defended the county's efforts to work with the Severn-area neighborhoods but called for more community involvement.

"We have no crystal ball to solve these problems," Gary said. "We need your help to try to resolve these issues."

Community leaders had protested the hiring of a private corporation to provide social workers and counselors in the neighborhood, saying residents were not consulted on the decision.

Gary agreed to meet with residents and answer their questions after about 130 people signed a petition earlier this month asking him for a meeting.

"I feel that we have been shortchanged," said Yvonne Johnson, a community organizer who spearheaded the petition drive to invite Gary to meet with residents. "We are doing as much as we can with the little funds that we have. I want to make sure that this community grows and [does not continue] to be the way it is."

Designed to provide affordable homeownership, the community of about 1,000 townhouses is home to many renters. Though working families live in the area, household incomes are well below county averages and drug activity is found in some neighborhoods. Arundel Community Development Services, a nonprofit corporation that administers federal block grants for the county, had been close to signing a $75,000 contract with Consortium for Services to Homeless Families Inc., a Washington-based company also known as ConServe, to provide social workers and other services in the area.

ConServe would have worked with families about to be evicted, in need of immediate drug counseling or in need of a haven from abuse. The company also would have helped find transportation and other resources for neighborhood organizations, as well as provide workshops on child-rearing, budgeting, nutrition and other topics. The one-year contract that was about to be signed could have been extended another two years for a total cost of $400,000 under the federal grant program.

But now a community committee will help decide whether ConServe or another entity will be brought in to provide services, according to Kathleen M. Koch, head of Community DEvelopment Services.

Gary said the committee also will work on solving a long-standing problem in the area -- the lack of a recreation center and how to fund it.

"The fact that the community needs a recreational facility is very obvious," Gary said.

He said a similar neighborhood of 3,500 residents would not be built today without a community center provided by the developer.

Efforts to obtain land and to determine who would maintain a building have been unsuccessful.

David Blanch, a property owner in Arwell Court, said the pool and pool house in that neighborhood would be a good site for a center because the pool is underused.

"I would think that we would be more than receptive to letting the county have that property," Blanch said, referring to other owners in Arwell Court, the community that maintains the pool.

A common theme of county officials and residents last night was the need for more community involvement.

Residents "need to take responsibility for themselves, their children, their property and get out the door and do something," said Victoria Davis, a resident and homeowner in Arwell Court.

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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