State sinks pool funds

Md. lawmakers reject $24 million proposal for 2 indoor facilities

But Owens pleased overall

General Assembly OKs $500,000 for Parole Plaza project

Md. lawmakers reject Arundel's pools plan

Anne Arundel

April 10, 2001|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County has come up dry in its attempt to squeeze $24 million out of the General Assembly for public indoor swimming pools in Glen Burnie and Odenton.

The county could choose to scrounge up at least some of the money on its own. But County Executive Janet S. Owens said she isn't sure the county can afford to begin even preliminary design work for one pool.

"We don't have the money right now," Owens said yesterday, before traveling to the State House to see what the county did - and did not - get as the 90-day legislative session drew to a close.

Owens said based on what she knew, she was "delighted" at how the county fared overall. She said state lawmakers included $500,000 to expand teacher mentoring programs and $500,000 to help redevelop Parole Plaza.

Owens was still sorting things out yesterday. For instance, additional money for the area around Parole Plaza - she asked for $8 million for a bus station - might be tucked away in different budget "pockets," she said.

But one result was clear: No state money will be spent for either swimming pool. Owens never seriously thought the county would get both this year, but she had hoped for planning money for one. "I'm a strong supporter of pools for lifelong recreation and rehab," she said.

The county councilman who represents Glen Burnie has not given up hope that the county will move forward on the North County pool, despite what is shaping up to be a lean county budget. Even so, a so-called aquatic facility could take three years to complete.

"People keep asking me when are we going to get it built," said Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., a Millersville Democrat. "Everybody is geared to it being there. They want it and want to use it."

The county has an indoor pool in Annapolis, but it can take half an hour for swim teams and others to drive there from North County. Klosterman said the county bought nearly 26 undeveloped acres off Crain Highway in 1999 for a pool complex site. The $1.4 million cost was covered by state and federal grants.

Klosterman said he envisions the Glen Burnie facility housing two Olympic-size pools - one for competitive swimmers and divers, and the other for recreational swimmers, including kids and "grandfathers like me." The property is big enough to accommodate basketball courts and grassy picnic areas, he said.

Unlike newer subdivisions built during the past few decades, North County areas like Glen Burnie, Linthicum and Harundale lack community pools, he said. He said they are generally too far from waterfront beaches for children to ride their bikes.

"Even the city [of Baltimore] has pools," he said.

Klosterman said he would like to see planning and engineering money included in the county budget that takes effect July 1. Construction in Glen Burnie could begin the year after that, possibly by borrowing the estimated cost of $10 million to $12 million, he said.

The pool complex could open in late 2003 or early 2004. "That's the hope," he added.

Owens would not say yesterday whether her budget proposal, set for release May 1, will include money for pools. She did say the project has not been removed from the capital budget document, a step that would be akin to killing it.

"It means it's not dead," Owens said.

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