Howard Week

May 21, 2000

School board says extra $1.3 million is not enough

Smaller class sizes will have to wait a year for some Howard County second-graders and frayed band uniforms will have to endure, casualties of last-minute school board budget cuts.

The County Council tentatively agreed last week to restore $1.3 million to the schools budget, but the school board said that was not enough.

The majority Democrats rejected Thursday a Republican suggestion to restore $1.1 million more by deferring spending on a new emergency radio system for county police and firefighters. Robey administration officials warned that the move could mean delays and higher costs for the radio project by delaying the signing of a contract with Motorola, the vendor.

First-quarter violent crime fell 10.3 percent, police say

Violent crime in Howard County decreased by 10.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, county police said.

Statistics released last week show that 36 robberies were reported from January to March, compared with 69 in the same period last year. No homicides were reported in the first quarter; last year there was one in the first three months.

Police credit a new robbery unit and a special assignment section with helping to reduce the number of street crimes.

Council eyes $15 million for farmland preservation

With land prices rising and farm acreage declining, Howard County is set to spend $15 million to preserve 2,500 to 3,000 acres from development.

If the County Council approves the spending with the adoption of the county budget tomorrow, Howard would almost surely reach the goal it set in 1990 of preserving 30,000 acres from development.

About 21,000 acres are protected in the county through a variety of programs. In 1989, the county set aside $55 million to purchase development rights. When the funding ran out in 1997, the county suspended the program to build reserves again.

`Social awareness' art pulled down as unsuitable

A local artist and grandmother of two had some of her paintings removed from an Ellicott City Barnes & Noble after the store found them unsuitable for its younger customers."I am not a prude and at my age there is very little that shocks me, except for this," the artist, Virginia Bates, said last week.

The paintings that were removed, part of what Bates calls her "social awareness" series, have several images that include a weeping Statue of Liberty and children clutching balloons and guns. Bates calls them commentaries on violence, disease, smoking, alcoholism and war.

Barnes & Noble representatives said the paintings were not what they expected Bates to display.

Recovery progress mixed on Ellicott's Main Street

Six months after fire swept through a block of buildings in historic Ellicott City, hope blooms - and disappointment lingers.

The promise of normality is on the horizon for some Main Street property owners, as construction workers put the finishing touches on one damaged building and prepare to rebuild another.

But the owner of Main Street Blues - who in January bought the fire-scarred building that houses his restaurant, with hopes of renovating it and starting anew - is finding the expense of rebuilding too great.

Dennis Martin, whose restaurant was nearly 2 years old at the time of the fire, said he is talking to people interested in buying the building. He does not know whether he will stay as a renter.

Columbia might annex 517 acres in North Laurel

A 517-acre parcel of land being developed by the Rouse Co. in North Laurel could become part of Columbia, creating a fourth neighborhood in Kings Contrivance and a new revenue stream for the Columbia Association.

The Columbia Council likely will decide this summer whether to annex the so-called Key property, one of the most important issues facing the board along with choosing a successor to former CA President Deborah O. McCarty.

The proposed annexation has riled some residents who think CA should focus on what it already has rather than on a property that is not even contiguous to Columbia."The Rouse Co. has an obligation to provide for the amenities for that North Laurel property," said Alex Hekimian, a former council member who is helping reactivate the citizens watchdog group Alliance for a Better Columbia.

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