No formal action has been taken on Baugher Farm I am...

LETTERS

April 02, 2000

No formal action has been taken on Baugher Farm

I am writing to clarify several misconceptions concerning the school site selection policy of the Howard County Public School System.

Over the last 11 years, we have completed 24 new schools as well as many renovations and additions to existing schools. Most of these projects involved the acquisition of new sites or the reconfiguration of existing land.

In all of these projects, the Board of Education has been guided by a formal policy, which involves public action by the board at the time the project is included in the capital budget. It further specifies the steps that must be taken to acquire property, including public notice of the intent to acquire, a public hearing to determine citizen opinion and a public vote by the board to acquire the property.

The acquisition of a particular school site is also coordinated with the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning and other Howard County agencies, as well as the Maryland public school construction program.

In addition, each project is a part of the budget approval process involving the county executive and the County Council, which also hold public hearings on our school projects.

It is an unfortunate fact that as the county continues to grow, less land is available for school sites. This problem is exacerbated when school sites are needed in high-growth areas such as the northeast section of the county. In this area, there are limited sites available on the open market, and it is necessary to contact individual landowners to begin a negotiation process.

The Board of Education's negotiation process is based on the idea of a "willing seller and a willing buyer." Only in an extreme emergency would we contemplate the use of the condemnation process.

It should be noted that we are actively pursuing the purchase of several sites in the northeast as well as other areas of the county, and no condemnation action is pending or planned against anyone.

More specifically, the board has taken no formal action to condemn the Baugher Farm. It is one of several sites under consideration for the new Northeast Elementary School scheduled to open in August, 2003.

We are confident that we can successfully negotiate with the appropriate landowners to acquire school sites in a timely manner. It is our goal that both parties to the, agreement, as well as parents, neighbors and members of the connnunity, will ultimately be satisfied with our decisions.

Sandra H. French, Ellicott City

The letter writer chairs the Board of Education of Howard County.

Post office decision may not be to public's liking

How unfortunate that some Columbia residents claim that moving a small post office two-tenths of a mile would inconvenience them ("Post office might move to mall site," March21).

I am a resident of the small community of Trotter Ridge. Al-though our home is in Clarksviile, 21029, we are required to use Columbia, 21044, as our address for the simple reason that the Columbia post office delivers the mail to this community. If we use our legal address, we don't get mail.

Residents of Columbia need to know that the Postal Service will most likely make its decisjon based on whatever is convenient for the Postal Service, not necessarily on what is in the best interest of the residents.

Sandy Ferraro, Columbia

Low-income status is short-lived for most

Irene Skricki urges the adoption of a subsidized savings program for low-income individuals and families ("Securing a slice of the American dream," Opinion*Commentary, March 21). Called Individual Development Accounts (IDA), the program would allow low-income people to save a small amount, perhaps $20 monthly, and have matching funds provided by private or public charitable sources.

In a few years, according to Ms. Skricki, "a family can accumulate several thousands of dollars that could be used to buy a home or pay for an education program."

At a savings rate of $80 per month, ($20 from the individual! family, matched at the upper sug-gested ratio of ito 3), and drawing a generous 8 percent Interest per annum, the amount accumulated at the end of three years would be $3,229. Adjusting for inflation at 2 percent per year would reduce the value of the accumulation to $3043 in today's dollars.

Entering into a home purchase with $3,000 Is better than having nothing, but it wouldn't cover closing costs in most transactions. It wouldn't buy much education, either.

It would, however, disappoint a lot of low-income people who would come to conclude that, once again, they had been deceived.

For Ms. Skricki's program to work, substantially more would have to be accumulated, requiring steeply increased contributions by participants and subsidizing sources. Achieving that would be a tough to sell to everyone involved, but it would be a more honest presentation.

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