Council vote stresses more police education

Panel also approves financing for $4 million worth of heavy equipment

February 08, 2000|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County will have better-educated police recruits, $4 million worth of new fire engines and heavy equipment and one less cable television provider after a series of County Council votes last night.

Under the police measure, most recruits will need 60 college credits to be eligible to become a county police officer. The council approved exceptions for police cadets, veteran police officers who transfer to Howard from other jurisdictions, and recruits with military experience.

The measure takes effect in 60 days.

"We're looking for a more educated police force," said Councilman Guy J. Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat, who introduced the military-exception amendment at the request of the county police union.

"Folks who served in that capacity should be eligible to enter the pool," Guzzone said.

"We gain knowledge in different ways," added Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican.

Council Chairwoman Mary C. Lorsung and C. Vernon Gray, both Columbia Democrats, opposed the amendment as did county police Chief Wayne Livesay. After it was amended, the bill passed unanimously.

Despite having a tough time finding enough recruits, Livesay has said Howard is keeping pace with other jurisdictions such as neighboring Montgomery County, where recruits must have at least 60 college credits.

In another vote, the council approved a $4 million bond sale to finance the purchase of heavy equipment such as front-end loaders and fire engine pumpers. The measure, which was approved 4-1, is designed to get the county's fleet replacements back on a regular schedule, and fast enough to have the equipment -- which takes eight to 10 months to deliver -- working before next winter.

Raymond S. Wacks, the county budget director, has told the council this is a long-overdue chance to replace equipment.

Wacks said the five-year bonds would cost $660,800 a year to finance and would enable the county to order the equipment more quickly under existing purchase contracts. If, in compiling his budget next month, County Executive James N. Robey believes there is enough surplus cash, the bonds may not be needed, Wacks said. In the meantime, the council's approval could get the process moving more quickly.

"I'm not happy about voting for this. It [replacement of equipment] should have been done earlier," said Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, west county Republican.

In other action, the council voted 4-1 to approve the sale of Mid-Atlantic Cable, which serves about 3,000 customers in Western Howard, to Comcast, which serves 60,000 in the east county.

An attempt to use the vote as a way to leverage a deal to allow other high-speed Internet providers to use Mid-Atlantic's cables was abandoned before last night's vote. Council members said they didn't have enough time to consider such a complex effort.

The council also postponed for a month a vote on tightening the law limiting new home development around crowded schools.

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