Howard County employees called to active military duty would not see their incomes drop during their service if the County Council approves a bill submitted by County Executive James N. Robey.
Another Robey request introduced this week would add $500,000 to the financing for a $1.2 million Head Start building planned for construction in Columbia. Inflation has driven up the price of the seven-classroom building, scheduled to open in September next to Dasher Green Elementary School in Owen Brown village.
Howard's bill for reservists is similar to measures in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, and it would affect the five county employees whose Reserve or National Guard units have been called up: two police officers, a firefighter, a correctional officer and a highway worker.
"These guys are making a significant financial sacrifice," said Robey, a former National Guard member.
Human Resources Director Jimmie Saylor said the county would pay the difference between an employees' military and civilian salariesand continue medical coverage for their families so they would not have to change doctors or locations.
The bill is subject to a public hearing Dec. 17 and will be voted on Jan. 7. It would take effect "during a national emergency or under presidential authority," such as the current situation, but is not limited to one year - as is the bill Baltimore County Executive C.A Dutch Ruppersberger introduced Monday night in Towson.
Ruppersberger's bill would pay workers their full county pay in addition to the military pay they would earn. Baltimore County has 28 employees who have been called up. In Anne Arundel County, where the council approved its measure Monday night, four workers are affected
Saylor said Howard County would not incur any new costs because the salaries are in the budget. Any overtime resulting from the reservists' absence would be offset because the county is not paying the full salaries of those on active duty, he said.
"If these horrible circumstances existed at any time, we'd want to do this," Saylor said.
The Head Start project affected by Robey's other request began three years ago after the boilers died in the former Elkridge Elementary School, forcing the federally financed preschool program for low-income families to evacuate the building.
Since then, classes have doubled up at a former school in Ellicott City, and classes are held at the former Harriet Tubman High School next to Atholton High.
The county received $750,000 in federal and state money for the new building, but construction costs have risen since it was conceived, said Alan Ferragamo, deputy public works director.
Construction is expected to begin soon. The contract was recently awarded to William F. Klingensmith Inc. of College Park
Community Action Council Director Dorothy L. Moore , who has pushed for a new Head Start center, said she is satisfied the building will open on time. "We know the county has done all that is possible to build this building," she said.
The extra money is to come from two sources - $100,000 from the county contingency fund and $400,000 "borrowed" from funding for Florence Bain Senior Center renovation. The county expects to replace the center money July 1, before it will be needed.