Letters To The Editor


February 16, 2003

Make outdoor pools more affordable

The analysis of the issue of "free pools" by the Columbia Association Budget Committee was cursory at best ( "Keep golf course management, group says," Feb. 11). Although the group's report referred to "the proposal to provide free pool memberships," no such proposal was appended to their report, so it is not clear what proposal, if any, they specifically considered.

In September 2002, I submitted a proposal regarding the outdoor pools to the Columbia Council, whose members also serve as CA's board of directors. The premise is to make Columbia's outdoor pools more affordable for Columbia residents and simpler to access.

Columbia's extensive system of outdoor pools help create community by providing a place where neighbors can socialize and form strong bonds.

They should be a basic amenity, an extension of our pathway system, accessible to all residents. As a society, we should want to eliminate the image of the child peering at the pool from outside the fence surrounding it.

Features of that plan clearly rebut objections so briefly raised by the Budget Committee:

1. The pools would not be free - just nearly so. Each visitor would pay a one dollar "turnstile fee" per visit. At current usage levels, this fee would recoup about one-third of operating expenses. Usage might, however, rise under such a modest fee. (Turnstile fees might ultimately be waived during low-usage periods of the day for children and/or seniors.)

2. The "operational problem" cited by the Budget Committee of potential overcrowding can easily be addressed through capacity limits and exit turnstiles.

In addition, persons who do not live or work in Columbia could be required to pay an annual membership fee for joining just a single pool from a list of lower-usage pools.

(Nonresidents who work in Columbia could choose to purchase a season membership that would allow them access to any outdoor pool. In addition, a small number of guest passes could be allotted to each Columbia household.)

3. The "operational problem" of lifeguards forced to "baby-sit" - the Budget Committee's term - can easily be ameliorated by requiring children to be accompanied by a supervising adult.

This plan should be implemented for a trial period of a minimum of three years. Its success should be evaluated in terms of both financial measures and whether substantially more individual residents visit the outdoor pools.

I will gladly supply my outdoor pools proposal to all those interested.

Ruth Cargo


Group aids families in finding child care

In Larry Carson's article "Child care aid denied as state plans budget cut" (Feb. 4) Mr. Carson writes, "Howard's social services office began Jan. 15 turning away applicants for child care subsides ..."

Families are being turned away throughout the state due to disproportionate budget cuts in child care. How can families who are struggling to climb out of the depths of poverty expect to become self-sufficient if they cannot afford to send their children to quality child care because the aid they so desperately depend on is denied them? They are left with no other recourse but to remain in welfare system.

Mr. Carson also writes "Statewide, the cut in 2004 to child resource centers would remove $4 million of the $5.8 million appropriated this year ..." Budget cuts to these centers will devastate the child care community.

The Resource Network, which consists of 13 centers throughout the state, is an invaluable resource to the child care community as a whole. The Network helps families find child care to meet their specific needs. It provides training to individuals in topic areas that are specific to the field of early childhood education.

The training meets the mandatory training requirements set forth by the state. Also available to providers in child care at the resource centers are curriculum materials and equipment, such as laminators, to assist them in the preparing for the children they serve.

Maryland has historically made achieving a quality child care delivery system a priority. We have built a foundation. Let us continue to build upon that foundation, not demolish it.

Sue Atencio


The writer is a coordinator at the Baltimore City Child Care Resource Center

Questioning motives of zoning department

After reading the comments of Marsha S. McLaughlin, Howard County's interim planning director, on her Department of Planning and Zoning's recommendations for rezoning the properties on the north side of Montgomery Road ("Rezoning proposal focusing on U.S. 1," Feb. 11), an area which I can only assume she does not reside in, I must point out two falsehoods that she is apparently not aware of.

The YMCA and church are perfectly within their legal rights under the zoning laws and regulations to expand under their present zoning status. Any change is totally unnecessary except for future commercialization of the sites.

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