Anti-litter plan signs removed

Some angry after Adopt-A-Road markers taken down

`Ridiculous,' resident says

Project eliminated to prevent Klan from participating

April 01, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Most of the Adopt-A-Road signs were gone by the time people left for work yesterday morning, as Anne Arundel County officials erased all trace of the popular program that was snuffed out by County Executive Janet S. Owens after the Ku Klux Klan tried to participate.

Owens' decision Tuesday to eliminate the program to prevent the Klan from joining it has drawn attention from beyond the the county, after the American Civil Liberties Union prepared to side with the Klan.

Yesterday morning's blitz by county workers left some residents angry and wondering whether the sudden death of the government program will leave more trash on the 26 miles of county roads that volunteers once cleaned up.

"I think the whole thing is utterly ridiculous. This is a victory to the KKK, and a real pity," said Lynn Forsman, leader of the Woodhaven residential association that picked up trash along Bell Branch Road under the program.

Owens decided to duck a legal fight threatened by local Klan members had they been denied the chance to participate in the Adopt-A-Road program program.

Just before 7 a.m. yesterday, county public works crews began cruising up and down main roads, meticulously removing 52 Adopt-A-Road signs. Most signs were down by 8 a.m., officials said. A few remained standing until about 11 a.m. They were taken to the Western District Road Yard in Odenton.

County public works supervisor Edward H. Meehan was simply following Owens' request that employees remove the signs "first thing in the morning," said Andrew C. Carpenter, spokesman for the county executive.

"This was just a case of Mr. Meehan taking the county executive at her word. She said she wanted the signs down first thing tomorrow morning, and so he took her literally," Carpenter said.

The signs will be replaced with new ones discouraging roadside litter, said John Morris, spokesman for the county public works department. "Our sign shop next week will silk-screen some signs," he said. "They should go up next week."

All 26 participating groups -- ranging from businesses and churches to neighborhood organizations and a single family -- will be notified by letter of the program's end, Morris said.

He said that elimination of the program could cost the county about $20,000 more in trash pickup.

But it already has cost the county some goodwill among demoralized volunteers such as Donna Mullis, who was the program's team leader for the Heritage Church of God, which was responsible for Quarterfield Road.

Promise to continue

"It did bring a lot of unity to a lot of groups," said Mullis, who said she nearly cried at the sight of the sign's removal. She vowed that the volunteers would continue on their own.

One Annapolis businessman, Mike Barnes of Economy Pest Control, said he was disheartened by the county's decision to kill the program.

"I'm very disappointed," he said. "It was good for business."

`An increased burden'

Barnes said he and others collected 48 bags of trash over the course of six Sunday morning cleanups of Bestgate Road.

"It's going to mean an increased burden of trash on the road," Barnes said. In his view, Owens should have let the Klan join and then "ignore" the white supremacist group.

`A good move'

A man on Quarterfield Road coming home from work yesterday afternoon disagreed. "We don't need that stirring up stuff," said Jim Roberts, 50, pointing to the place where a vanished sign, near an elementary school, once stood.

"It's sad, but a good move," Roberts said.

Sun staff writer Tom Pelton contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 4/01/99

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