Mikulski vows to work with county officials to secure federal funding

During her annual visit to Carroll, senator listens to requests, offers options

April 13, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski cannot promise federal money for every local project, but she came to Carroll County yesterday ready to listen to requests and advise on options.

In her annual meeting with county officials, the Democrat from Baltimore heard about agriculture, education, programs for the elderly, railroads, community development and sophisticated airport equipment, all of them in need of federal dollars.

Her aides took notes, and she promised answers.

"I can't guarantee an outcome, but I can guarantee an effort," Mikulski said. "We visit the county annually to see where the federal government can be of help or if we have been a hindrance -- what can we do to help."

She promised to work with the county on the airport, the railroads and the Agriculture Center. She also will continue efforts to win Carroll its share of federal money for schools, the elderly and crime prevention.

She characterized her visit as "tutorial in nature" and encouraged local officials to work through the state for federal money.

"Federal money comes through the state," she said. "If there is state support for federal funds, that helps us."

The senator was optimistic about congressional funding of the Older Americans Act, which pays for several local programs, and continued support for the Ombudsman Program, which oversees services for the elderly. Mikulski asked the county for data on its programs for the aging in time for a Senate hearing this month.

"We are working on a bipartisan basis to get this bill done," she said. "We have a whole aging long-term agenda and we want to be sure that rural America is part of it."

She also asked for details on local projects funded by community development block grants and promised "to fight for every increase in the program that I can."

"I like to give examples so I can make my arguments," said Mikulski. "You can count on me to be an advocate here."

After a brief presentation on special education, the senator said Congress is discussing increased funding for several school programs.

"Clinton has put 100,000 new police officers on the streets," she said. "I want 100,000 new teachers. Maryland would be eligible for 500 of them. We have to make sure our children are ready for the new century."

Balanced-budget legislation leaves little leeway for requests such as the $1.7 million needed to build a $3.4 million Agriculture Center, she said.

"We had a lot more elasticity before we went to a balanced budget," Mikulski said.

The state has pledged $700,000, and volunteers have raised $1.4 million, efforts the senator praised. She said she will look at state and federal programs in search of other funding sources.

"The greater the local effort, the more help we can be," she said. "You already have nice matching funds."

Money for improvements in local rail lines and a landing system for the county airport could be difficult to obtain, she said.

"All federal transportation money comes through the state; nothing comes individually to local governments," she said. "But, we need railroad modernization, tracks and spurs. The railroad is key in addition to roads."

She asked for written descriptions of the projects and which Maryland departments the county has approached for funding. She offered support for the county's efforts to improve the airport.

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