Annapolis focus begins now

Howard County: Pending school aid is most important to local officials who sought little.

April 16, 1999

AS FAR AS some Howard countians are concerned, the Maryland General Assembly really begins in earnest after the confetti falls on the session's last night -- when the state announces awards for school construction.

To accommodate one of the fastest growing enrollments in the state, Howard seeks $19 million for school projects, up from $13 million last year. A more realistic hope is about $15 million.

Other than that, Howard's highlight in the legislative session was a $340,000 appropriation for an incubator facility for start-up small businesses in information-technology. It would be located in the former Allied Signal building in Columbia the county purchased last year.

The county official who made the most noise this session was Superintendent Michael E. Hickey. He doggedly pursued -- to no avail -- $1 million from the governor, who had pledged to give extra aid to school systems with plans to cut class size. Gov. Parris N. Glendening waffled on who would qualify, then only gave the money to Montgomery County.

One new state law with origins in Howard requires home-builders to warn buyers of potential environmental hazards. The legislation was proposed after methane gas fouled expensive new homes in Elkridge. Residents filed a $75 million suit against the developer and builder who had not told them that tree stumps and rubble were buried on site. The decaying debris likely generated the methane gas that seeped into their new basements. Builders resisted the bill, but a law that could avoid the legal mess that entangles the Calvert Ridge development is to their benefit as well as buyers.

With a limited agenda from a new county executive, who had the luxury of a veteran delegation,Howard County wasn't holding its breath about a lot of legislation. The real anticipation, for school money, continues.

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