CA urged not to cut exchange program Sister city links maintained in France, Spain

September 05, 1997|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

More than a dozen residents urged the Columbia Association's governing board last night to spare from cuts a student exchange program, a small portion of the huge homeowners association's proposed $46 million budget for next year.

"If there is a chance that the program might not be continued, it would be a shame," said Nicki Lightfoot, a senior at Howard High School who went to France this summer. "Without the scholarship I wouldn't have been able to go."

The Columbia Association -- the homeowners association that runs recreation programs and manages open space in Columbia -- has operated a sister city program with Cergy-Pontoise, France, and Tres Cantos, Spain. The program cost $45,000 this year.

But recently, some CA board members questioned whether the program served a broad base of Columbia residents.

Those supporting the program at last night's meeting included 10 high school girls who are members of Dance Dimensions and recently went to France. "It was an exhilarating experience for us," said Marilyn Byers, the group's dance instructor.

In an unrelated matter, about 20 residents asked council members at the budget hearing at Slayton House in the Wilde Lake village center to consider making pool memberships more affordable, buying 300 acres of undeveloped farmland a mile from Town Center and eliminating the horse center south of Columbia.

"I consistently see that CA needs are being subsidized by 60 percent of people who don't even use the horse stable, the tennis bubble, the indoor pools or the golf courses," said Dawn McBrien of Hickory Ridge. "The horse barns are in an out-of-the-way location, and I wonder if the money wouldn't be better spent on buying the Smith farm."

Several other residents told the council it should contribute money to purchasing the 300 acres left by Elizabeth C. "Nancy" Smith, who died in February without a will. Developers, preservationists and community activists are vying to acquire the land from her two heirs.

"We want CA to put aside a substantial sum of money for the Smith farm so that the land remains in the public domain," said Ruth Cargo, president of the Voices for Columbia group. "We don't want to see it turned into a sea of townhouses."

Jennifer Blake, chairwoman of the River Hill village board, had a long list of suggestions for the council that included basketball courts, a wooden canopy at the River Hill pool, replacement of health club equipment and reforestation along Route 32.

The CA board members will approve a budget in February or early March.

Pub Date: 9/05/97

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