Golf war continues at budget hearing

Private links resist residents' pleas for cheap public courses

April 19, 2000|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County's golf war -- pitting owners of private links against residents who want cheap public courses -- continued last night at the County Council's capital budget hearing.

The battle is over a proposal to build an $8.8 million public course in West Friendship. The council has until June to approve final capital and operating budgets. About 50 people attended the meeting.

Although County Executive James N. Robey has asked the council to approve plans for the project, he has promised not to build it if private course owners provide low-cost golf for senior citizens and young players eager to learn the sport.

Supporters of the public course -- who want to see affordable golf provided for years to come -- don't believe the private owners will fulfill the promise.

"Golf is no longer a rich man's game," said Dan Rice of Columbia, adding that promises from golf course owners to lower fees "are like letting the fox promise if you let him into the hen house, he'll take only one plump chicken."

Thomas Beach, owner of Willow Springs golf course, said the golf market is already tight in Howard County, and it isn't fair for the county to become a competitor.

Opponents said fees at the public course likely would be higher than the $15-$20 range most senior citizens are comfortable with.

The $1.8 million in the proposed capital budget for the first phase of the new 160-acre Western Regional park in Glenwood would pay only for ball fields, roads and basic park utilities. The second phase of the park is scheduled to be built next year.

On May 6, the council will consider the school system's portion -- some 25 percent -- of the proposed $200 million capital budget. The capital budget for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, is $100 million.

Nearly half the proposed capital budget would go for schools and a major upgrade of the county's wastewater treatment plant in Savage. The upgrade would allow the Savage facility to handle up to 25 million gallons a day instead of the current 18-million-gallon daily capacity.

The school system would get $49 million -- $4 million less than requested. Robey protected projects that would add classrooms to the school system.

In other areas, the capital plan would provide for the renovation of Howard Community College's gym and a new classroom building, $15 million for preservation of agricultural land; and $11.4 million to upgrade the county's emergency radio system.

Pub Date: 4/19/00

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