Balto. Co. presents Assembly wish list Ruppersberger seeks $32 million for school construction projects

January 06, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Thousands of Baltimore County children would get new places to learn and play -- and some would get more classroom help -- if County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger wins the increased state funding he wants from the General Assembly.

In his legislative package unveiled yesterday at Towson University, Ruppersberger is seeking $32 million for school construction projects, including 14 additions, 17 new roofs, planning approval for two schools in Owings Mills and major building repairs.

The county executive also told local lawmakers that he wants money for business corridor beautifications, a Bloomsbury Community center in Catonsville, Benjamin Banneker Museum exhibits and two new Police Athletic League recreation centers.

"Our test scores are up, crime is down and neighborhoods are getting stronger," Ruppersberger said, adding that more support and money are needed to continue that progress.

The requests reflect the administration's efforts to strengthen older communities while concentrating on basic services such as schools and public safety, said Michael H. Davis, spokesman for the county executive.

Other items in the package would allow disclosure of details in serious child abuse cases, such as last summer's starvation death of a 9-year old girl; give police authority to serve warrants outside the county; and give jail authorities more control over the earnings of work-release inmates and those on home detention.

The noncontroversial, election-year package drew no objections from the assembled legislators yesterday, with several saying it will be easy to support once the 90-day session starts next week.

"There's nothing anyone could get upset with," said Del. Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick, a Dundalk Democrat who is House delegation chairman.

Acknowledging the statewide election this year, Ruppersberger told the delegates and senators that partisanship can wait until after the session. "Once the session is over, we'll get into the political mode, and we'll do whatever we'll do," he said.

Republican leaders agree. State Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, a Towson Republican, said he fully concurs with Ruppersberger's statements about leaving partisan political concerns until after the session ends.

"We're not there to be petty and partisan," he said.

Like others, Boozer and Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Democrat who represents parts of Woodlawn, Liberty Road and a slice of West Baltimore, were looking at what is in the package for their constituents.

"I'm excited about the PAL Center at Woodmoor," said Burns, who is pastor of Rising Sun First Baptist Church. "That's just around the corner from my church."

He noted that money for a streetscape project on Liberty Road in his district also is included. Another streetscape project on Loch Raven Boulevard is in Boozer's district.

In his remarks to lawmakers, Ruppersberger said he will be an "aggressive supporter" of a proposed statewide program to give extra education aid to areas with concentrations of low-income families, non-English speaking children and pre-1960 buildings.

Baltimore County would get $9.6 million over four years from the $58 million statewide package, which is expected to be in Gov. Parris N. Glendening's budget.

This year, the county is seeking a record $32 million for bricks and mortar projects.

School Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione reminded legislators that as recently as 1992, Baltimore County got $792,000 in state capital dollars for school construction -- 1.2 percent of the state's total funds.

But in the three years since Ruppersberger took office, he said, the county has received $49.2 million in state school construction funds -- more than the previous 13 years combined.

"I applaud you for your efforts," he said.

Under neighborhood enhancement, Ruppersberger wants:

* $3.1 million in state money to pay for half of a proposed community center in Catonsville. The old Catonsville Middle School building on Bloomsbury Road would be partially demolished, leaving the 1924 core of the building. A 7,500-square-foot gymnasium would be built, and the building could serve a variety of local programs.

* $4 million would go to beautify sections of Liberty Road from Courtleigh to Milford Mill roads; Loch Raven Boulevard from Taylor Avenue to Joppa Road; and Reisterstown Road from Slade Avenue to Glengyle Road.

* $1.2 million for half the cost of PAL centers at Woodmoor Elementary and Golden Ring Middle schools. The latter would replace older quarters at the former Fullerton Elementary School. The Woodmoor center would be new.

The other monetary request is for $750,000 in state funds for the Benjamin Banneker Museum in Oella -- half the cost of finishing the interior exhibition space, buying exhibition equipment, and for paths and signs. John Weber, director of the Department of Recreation and Parks, said the museum will be dedicated June 20.

In the area of social services, Ruppersberger said he would support a bill by Del. James W. Campbell, a Northwest Baltimore/Baltimore County Democrat, to allow disclosure of facts about serious child abuse cases.

The bill would allow information to be disclosed if it would not harm a child, if a child has died or suffered serious injury, or when someone has been charged with criminal abuse of a child.

The bill is patterned after a New York law enacted in 1996 and designed to allow lawmakers to review serious child abuse cases so they can suggest informed changes in the laws when needed.

The county's interest was prompted by the death June 25 of Rita Fisher, 9, of Pikesville who died of starvation at home. Fisher's mother, an elder sister and the sister's boyfriend face murder charges in the case.

Pub Date: 1/06/98

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