Howard Week

May 13, 2001

About 65 attend council hearing on school budget

This year's amiable school budget process continued through another important step May 5 -- the Howard County Council's hearing on school funding and needs.

The annual hearing, often called a "beg-a-thon," has for several years been characterized by spirited demonstrations, passionate pleas for money and long lines of parents and community members waiting to give council members what-for about potential cuts to the schools' budget.

Last year's hearing, for example, lasted more than six hours, as more than 200 people filed to the microphone to speak. This year, no more than 65 people showed up at the 9 a.m. meeting, and it was over at 10:45 a.m.

HCC nursing students to get aid for service

Desperate for nurses, more Maryland hospitals are turning to a recruitment tactic perfected by the military: scholarships in return for service.

In a program announced Tuesday, six hospitals in the Baltimore region and Montgomery County will offer $2,500 in financial aid to advanced nursing students at Howard Community College who agree to remain on their staff for a year or two after graduation.

The payoff is one of an array of steps that hospitals and nursing schools are taking to contend with a growing national shortage of the medical professionals.

County gets $25 million for school construction

Howard County will get $5 million more from the state in school construction aid next year than the $20 million expected -- a bonus that left county officials overjoyed.

"Jeez!" said Associate Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin, who oversees school construction projects. "This will help a great deal."

Howard's grant, announced Monday in Annapolis, is by far the largest amount the county has received in school construction money from the state in at least 15 years, Cousin said -- larger than the $20.7 million received this year and the $16 million two years ago.

Councilmen plan to revive zoning law changes

A series of zoning law changes that would make it easier for Howard County's residents to gain equal footing with developers may have died an ugly death at Monday night's County Council meeting, but reincarnation appears imminent.

Despite the partisan bickering during last week's voting session on 45 amendments to a long zoning revision bill, a bipartisan trio of councilmen plans to craft the measures into a new bill. The new measure would be reviewed by the Planning Board before a council vote in several months.

The proposed changes would require developers to summon neighbors of a project to a meeting, submit all their documents supporting a change 30 days before a public hearing, require a two-year wait before trying to modify an approved conditional use and require the county to seek revocation of a conditional use if zoning violations are not corrected in 30 days.

Appeals board approves retirement community

The Howard County Board of Appeals unanimously approved Tuesday night a proposed 147-unit retirement community at Route 144 and Marriottsville Road, over the objections of residents who fear the plan will set a bad precedent for the county's rural west.

"Concerns about this not fitting in the neighborhood may be justified to a certain extent, but there's nothing in the regulations that prevents it," said board member Bill Waff.

The proposal by developers Brantly Corp. and Landsource Ltd. calls for 75 single-family homes and 72 attached units on 73 acres. It has drawn attention because the site is just outside the boundary of the county's public sewer area, which is meant to divide the county's developed east from its rural west.

Board asked to expand school technology program

Howard County students might soon have more chances to get into the school district's coveted technology program. Technology Coordinator Richard Weisenhoff told the school board Thursday night that it should consider expanding the program either to another school or by adding 36 slots.

The program is housed at Long Reach and River Hill high schools, and the 250 students admitted each year also take courses at the school system's state-of-the-art Applications and Research Lab in Ellicott City. Every year more students apply to be in the program than slots are available, and students have to be selected for admission by lottery.

Councilwoman seeks firm enrollment figures

In an otherwise calm budget review, Councilwoman Mary C. Lorsung told Howard County school officials Thursday not to expect her support for a proposed western county elementary school unless they come up with firm enrollment projections and a long-promised countywide redistricting.

"I am moving closer and closer to asking for project E0977 [western elementary] to be removed from the budget," she said in Thursday's council review of the school budget.

Lorsung changed the relaxed atmosphere with a hard push on an old sore point -- notoriously inaccurate enrollment projections that have fed a continual sense of crisis in school planning, while heightening tensions between county residents and developers.

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