Crofton library put in budget

Owens announces wish to start work on project next year

May 25, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

In a major turnabout, County Executive Janet S. Owens announced yesterday that she intends to begin construction of a new library in Crofton during the next fiscal year instead of in 2004, as she proposed early this month.

The first $5.9 million to build the 25,000-square-foot library will be part of a supplemental budget Owens plans to unveil today. She said she will include $1 million more for the project in 2002.

Owens also wants to shift about $900,000 within the school system's budget to add school psychologists and counselors, and to give in-home teachers their first pay raise in 20 years.

The request needs the approval of the County Council, which is expected to vote today on the entire $1 billion operating and capital budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

All month, Owens had indicated she did not want to send the council a supplemental budget, to the alarm of some council members.

Owens said she changed her mind after evaluating the technology that was needed to make the library state-of-the-art and discussing the project with elected officials such as state Sen. Robert R. Neall, a Democrat who represents Crofton.

"It's the result of a lot of citizens' hard work and phone calls and making their sentiment known to the executive," said Councilman John J. Klocko III, a Crofton Republican who said he has been fighting for the library for 12 years.

It is not clear how quickly the library could open. The county must put the project out for bid, although planning and design work is complete.

Odenton library

At the same time yesterday, Owens reaffirmed her desire to keep moving forward next year on a 40,000-square-foot regional library in Odenton. When she released her budget May 1, she said she hoped to find a way to build both libraries at the same time.

"I am even more pleased to say that now we are going to build two technically advanced libraries," she said in a statement. Both communities have libraries. Crofton's, at 14,000 square feet, is 1 1/2 times larger than Odenton's.

Supporters of the Crofton library project -- who had launched an e-mail lobbying campaign to pressure Owens -- applauded the news.

"It's a project that is very much needed in Crofton, and this shows Ms. Owens thinks about all the citizens of the county," said Rich Trunnel, a member of Build A Crofton Library Now Committee. "For that we owe her a world of thanks."

To pay for fast-tracking the Crofton library, Owens proposes using $1.5 million no longer needed for David Taylor Research Center, which will be redeveloped by a private partnership. The rest of the money would be trimmed from the budget.

"The budget office went through line item after line item and made a cut here, a cut there," said Owens spokesman Andrew C. Carpenter.

Schools spending

For the additional school funding, Owens contemplates using $900,000 that was budgeted but is not needed for 5 percent teacher raises. She wants to boost the pay of in-home teachers to $25 an hour, at a cost of $600,000. She also proposes setting aside roughly $300,000 for additional counselors and psychologists.

Owens left out of the supplemental budget $900,000 to install sound barriers on U.S. 50 near Annapolis. That amount represents the county's 20 percent share of the project, with the state picking up the rest. But Carpenter said there is no urgency.

"The state doesn't need a commitment from county executive on sound barriers until April of next year," he said.

Also omitted is $1 million to expedite renovation of Marley Middle School.

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