Howard Week

May 05, 2002

Bickering mars final meeting of CA directors

In its last meeting of current members, the Columbia Association's board of directors passed an ethics policy revision that caused a former board member to compare the group to Germany's Nazis.

After bickering and personal attacks, the board voted 7-2 on April 25 to approve a policy change that would restrict board members who were county, state or federal employees from discussing or voting on matters related to those entities.

Columbia Councilwoman Barbara Russell of Oakland Mills, who works for Howard County government, has said she felt targeted by the policy. Russell said she believes it was a reaction to her recent urging to transfer Columbia Association's before- and after-school program to the county.

Russell and Councilman Joshua Feldmark of Wilde Lake voted against the policy change, while Councilman Tom O'Connor of Dorsey's Search abstained.

Sheri Fanaroff, Columbia Association general counsel, said the proposal does not change the policy and only clarifies the definition of "business entity." But Russell maintained that it's "not only a change, but a substantial change."

Potential cuts identified in budget for schools

Students might have to go without updated textbooks another year, two fewer custodians will clean up at the new high school and vacant teaching positions might stay that way a little longer. That is, if the county can't come up with millions more in funding for Howard County schools.

Of the money the Board of Education requested from the county government to fund programs, services and payrolls next fiscal year, County Executive James N. Robey said he can afford all but $7.6 million.

The gap forced Superintendent John R. O'Rourke to come up with a list of potential cuts in the proposed $398 million operating budget, which he presented to board members April 25.

Bridge work to close part of I-95 for two months

Motorists who travel north on Interstate 95 from Route 32 east will have to use a different route for the next two months.

On Thursday, the State Highway Administration closed that ramp in Columbia to reconstruct the bridge that runs over eastbound Route 32 and two others nearby. The work will conclude at the end of June if weather cooperates.

Drivers will be detoured for a mile and a half to northbound U.S. 1, from which they can immediately exit onto westbound Route 32 and take I-95 from the other direction.

Deal to allow opening of Glenelg High addition

After years of delay and more than six months of tangled negotiations, Howard County's school board has a deal that should pave the way for the August 2004 opening of a 400-seat addition at Glenelg High School in western Howard County.

"It means the end is in sight," said Glenelg PTA President Terry Chaconas, whose son Matt is graduating this spring. The addition was supposed to have opened for Matt's junior year.

The settlement will provide for two new septic systems on the 70-acre Musgrove family farm behind the school - one for Glenelg, and the other for developer J. Thomas Scrivener's planned 32-home community on the adjoining Musgrove farm.

Maglev opponents turn out at MTA briefing

As he handed out anti-maglev train fliers at the door to Murray Hill Middle School in southern Howard County, Fred Ganong said he thought the train would be perfect - for the Los Angeles-Las Vegas run.

The vast majority of the more than 300 people who dropped in during the 3 1/2 -hour Maryland Transit Administration briefing Tuesday night at the school seemed to share his opposition to a maglev train in the county.

The meeting, the last in a series of seven held by the state, is part of a long process the federal government is sponsoring to choose a place to try out the expensive, experimental magnetic levitation technology. The train rides on air, propelled by electrically charged magnets, and is "whisper quiet," according to a brochure.

But the clutch of politicians, builders and residents of Howard's southeastern corner were not buying that Tuesday night - even if it would help attract the 2012 Olympics. And on Wednesday, County Executive James N. Robey joined the critics. His opposition to maglev can only hurt efforts to bring it to the area, supporters said.

Columbia Council elects Coffman as chairman

The Columbia Council elected Miles Coffman as its chairman Thursday night, beginning a new term for the conflict-torn council that one member said she hopes will mark a "fresh start."

The council voted unanimously to appoint Coffman, of Hickory Ridge, to the volunteer position.

No other council members were nominated for the role.

"I think I'd bring a perspective of one who works hard and understands the issues," Coffman said. Coffman, a 17-year Columbia resident, is in his third one-year term on the council.

U.S. Senate measure aimed at individual water billing

A water billing issue that has caused a stir of consumer complaints in Howard County is drawing attention from Congress. A provision in the Senate energy bill, which passed 88-11 on April 25, would provide tax incentives to landlords and property owners who install submeters in apartments and condos. Submeters track how much water each apartment uses, which helps apartment owners bill tenants accurately.

Water conservationists and housing officials hope the measure, which still must be agreed to by the House, will spur landlords and tenants to become more responsible water users.

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