County officials to rededicate resource center

March 07, 2002|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Stung by charges of insensitivity, Baltimore County officials will help rededicate a resource center in Turners Station that was initially named in honor of the wife of the county executive and has been closed for nearly seven months.

Community volunteers in the historic black enclave will study a more appropriate person to honor in naming the center, which is expected to reopen soon. Leading candidates are Dr. Joseph Thomas, a physician and diplomat; Elsie Winston, a Turners Station resident who helped start Operation Head Start in the 1960s; and Osceola Smith, a respected sports coach for decades.

"We are excited that the county acted so quickly to our concerns," said Deanna Fleming, a Turners volunteer. "It says a lot about a top official like Dutch Ruppersberger who can recognize a wrong and correct it."

Ruppersberger said that the resource center was named in honor of his wife, Kay, when the $3 million Fleming Center opened in July 2000. But neither he nor his wife was informed of the plan until the day of the dedication.

The decision to dedicate the rooms of computers and library was made by Peggy Patterson, a volunteer who operated the resource center and, for four years, the local recreation council.

Patterson's affiliation with the resource center ended in July after officials found that she had not filed required financial statements about how the resource center spent grant money.

County Attorney Edward Gillis is attempting to account for nearly $60,000 earmarked for youth activities and learning programs at the center. The funds in question include $50,000 in grants and at least $7,000 in sports activity funds.

An additional $100,000 in public funds was spent on the library while under Patterson's direction. She has declined to comment.

Except for occasional use by senior citizens, the resource center has remained closed to children and teen-agers since July. Gloria Nelson, president of the Turners recreation council, said yesterday that eight new computers will be installed by next month.

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