Howard Week

October 27, 2002

County officials say schools' $86.4 million funding request high

The $86.4 million that Howard County school officials are requesting for new buildings, additions and renovations next year is impossibly high, according to county officials who control the purse strings and candidates who would like to.

And the Columbia Association's chances of getting county money to help dredge Lake Kittamaqundi are "zero," County Executive James N. Robey, a Democrat, said Friday. Republican candidate Steven H. Adler was not quite so definite, but he said that "it appears at this time [the association has] more money to fund it than we have."

The association's leaders tentatively decided to put aside $1 million for the long-overdue job, but hope to get another $1 million from other sources.

Group wants to buy parcel needed to complete trail

The Sierra Club, which has fiercely opposed a bicycle trail project in Patapsco Valley State Park, appears poised to offer to purchase a sliver of property needed to complete the trail.

Members of the group were prepared to put a down payment on the property two weeks ago, said Lee Walker Oxenham, an Ellicott City resident and director of the group's Patapsco task force.

"This is an issue about what's going to happen in the future of this area," she said. "The Sierra Club is trying to protect the resource."

Budget outlook not clear, official tells council

Howard County Budget Director Raymond S. Wacks wore a Merlin the Magician hat - black, conical, and embroidered with moons and stars - as he explained the county's financial outlook to the County Council on Monday, but as one wag whispered, what he really needs now is a crystal ball.

Wacks later explained that the hat was a gag gift from his wife, bought after he announced last month that the county had eliminated a once-projected $18 million budget shortfall for the year that ended June 30.

But predicting the county's financial future is trickier, he told the attentive council members at their monthly administrative meeting in Ellicott City. "At this point in time, it does not appear we will have any revenue shortfalls this fiscal year, but things are still uncertain," he said.

Laurel man, 21, convicted in shooting of teen-agers

A 21-year-old Laurel man who fired a 9 mm handgun into a group of Columbia teen-agers in May, wounding three, was convicted Tuesday of assault, reckless endangerment and handgun charges related to the incident.

Derek T. Powell admitted that he went to the 10300 block of Daystar Court in Columbia on May 14 looking for one of the youths, and fired five shots from the front passenger window of a blue Lincoln. According to testimony, he said he wanted only to scare the teens, not hurt them.

However, Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney, who tried the case instead of a jury, said the testimony he heard over two days supports convictions on 10 of the charges - including four for felony assault.

Shelter can stay, monkeys must go, panel decides

Frisky's Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary can stay in Woodstock, but its monkeys must be out in four years, a Howard County panel has decided.

The vote - which pleased neither the longtime Frisky's manager nor the next-door neighbors opposed to the primates - occurred after 27 months of hearings to decide the fate of the private shelter, which was operating without land-use approval.

"I'm devastated, I'm totally devastated," said Colleen Layton, who runs the sanctuary from her 3.7-acre home. "Phasing us out, I could have handled, where you get no more, or, `You have so many years to do something about the macaque monkeys' - but all of them?"

The Howard County Board of Appeals decided, 4-1, Tuesday to require Layton to remove all exotic animals in four years. Her attorneys say the only exotic animals she has are the primates.

School board receives 4 redistricting proposals

The Howard County Board of Education handled a lot of business during Thursday night's meeting. Members received proposals to shift elementary and middle school boundary lines, approved adding acreage to the county's 12th high school site, and reviewed new SAT test results that showed the county again tied its high score but that an achievement gap remains.

David C. Drown, head of the Office of Geographic Information Systems, presented the board with four elementary and middle school redistricting proposals. Two were recommended versions and two were alternates.

The recommended elementary school plan would move 1,526 children and reduce the number of schools above the preferred capacity - 90 percent to 110 percent - from 15 to four.

The recommended middle school plan would move 1,120 pupils and fill Folly Quarter Middle School, opening next year, with pupils from Clarksville, Glenwood and Mount View - schools that surround the new one.

Wells in western county resilient, say officials

A recent run of rainy weather will not be enough to alleviate the ground-water shortage brought on by this year's severe drought, but residents of western Howard County can find some reassurance in the news that area wells are proving to be fairly resilient.

The Maryland Department of the Environment reported above-normal rainfall in the central region of the state for the past month. But during the past year, Howard County has had one of the lowest precipitation rates in that region - 65 percent of normal - and ground-water levels throughout the area remain in the emergency range.

The eastern part of Howard County is on Baltimore's water supply, while homes and businesses west of a zigzagging boundary line rely on individual wells.

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