Owens puts top priority on schools

County executive tells delegation she wants $50 million in state aid

`Have to work as a team'

Legislators pledge their support for pro-education platform

January 06, 1999|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Reflecting a theme she repeated often during last fall's campaign, newly elected Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens said last night that winning at least $50 million in state money to repair the county's aging schools is her top priority.

Owens made her announcement over a dinner at Loews Hotel in Annapolis for the state delegates and senators who will fight for the county's interests during this year's legislative session.

"Anne Arundel County has 9 percent of the students in public education in the state, and it is time that the county gets its fair share of the state dollars," Owens said.

Members of the county's legislative delegation pledged their support for Owens' pro-education platform, saying they would put aside the bickering that has fragmented Arundel's representatives in the past.

"We have to work as a team," said Del. Mary Ann Love, a Democrat from the northern part of the county. "There are no Republicans, there are no Democrats when we come together to help Anne Arundel County."

Repairing the county's crumbling and outdated public schools has long been a priority for the county government.

Owens said a study will be released soon showing that the county may need hundreds of millions of dollars to meet its school renovation needs over the next several years.

"I see my job, at least for this year, is to bring home as much money as possible for school renovations," the executive said.

Among Owens' other top priorities for the General Assembly, which begins next week, are a request for $1 million to help recruit teachers, almost $8 million to build a cultural center in Brooklyn Park and more than $5 million to pre serve rural land.

Owens said the county has identified about 1,300 acres of farmland that it would like to save from suburban sprawl through the purchase of easements that bar construction or other preservation programs.

Owens, who grew up on a tobacco farm in rural southern Anne Arundel, has said that saving what remains of the county's agrarian legacy from traffic jams is one of the causes that sparked her to run for office.

"We are looking to you, Janet, for leadership, to bring us all together," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Democrat from the northern part of the county. "I think the kickoff [for the legislative session] is Jan. 13 at noon. And that will be our Super Bowl."

Sen. John C. Astle, an Annapolis-area Democrat, was the only legislator to hint that there could be diverging views among the county's delegation.

"We are all representing the same people," Astle said. "We all have a vested interest in the success of the county government. But there will be those issues where there will be some differences between us."

Pub Date: 1/06/99

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