Shortfall may delay Howard lights

County needs $125,000 to finish 2-year project

High Schools

August 31, 2004|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

A $125,000 shortfall in the million dollar-plus campaign to light 11 Howard County stadium fields could derail the hope for widespread night athletic activities this fall.

Don Disney, Howard County's coordinator of athletics, said in an e-mail to the county's football coaches and athletic directors Sunday that unless the final money is raised by Sept. 28, no school will be authorized to turn on lights, even if construction of those lights is finished.

The two-year campaign has insisted upon an equity-based format in which wealthier schools would be treated the same as poorer schools, and no school would be lighted until all the money needed was raised.

"I'm glad to see they are sticking to that original concept," said Ben Sandler, president of the Hammond boosters club. "I was always concerned if there really would be equity. Our club intends to do everything it can to get the word out to parents that money is still needed."

Disney's plea spurred some immediate results. Oakland Mills received an anonymous $5,000 check from a community member yesterday, Disney said.

The final total needed is $1,050,000, an increase from the original goal of $850,000 that was caused mainly by the sudden rise in steel prices.

"We are at a critical juncture in the process," Disney said in his e-mail. "The construction is nearing the final phase, and there will be lights up at six or seven schools by Oct. 1 [pending unforeseen problems]."

The first seven schools to be lighted are Mount Hebron, Oakland Mills, Atholton, River Hill, Centennial, Glenelg and Long Reach. Light poles have been delivered to Mount Hebron, the winner of a lottery to determine the order of construction.

Doug Hostetler, chairman of the campaign's finance committee, is optimistic the money can be raised in time.

He said that two new corporate donors came forth in the past two weeks, including $50,000 from Bob Hartson and Sabine Wilson of Howard Open MRI, and $25,000 from Lee Leightner of ABC Rental Center. That brought the total to 16 corporate sponsors.

"We have a three-prong campaign," Hostetler said. "We're still seeking corporate donors. We're asking schools to sell football season tickets at a premium of $100, with $80 going to the campaign. And we're asking individuals to donate $200 to $500."

But some people have doubts that lights will go on this fall.

"It will be tough to raise the money, but it can be done," said Dean Kreh, the Mount Hebron boosters club president. "This has already put a strain on our boosters club's budget. I don't know if they'll get the lights on this fall. It may take until the spring. We've waited 40 years. Why not wait a little longer?"

Reservoir AD Ken Klock said: "That's a lot of money to ask for from individual donors. We already canvassed the community last spring. I'm playing it low-key so that if it doesn't happen we won't be disappointed."

The original plan was for Mount Hebron and Atholton to have lights by Sept. 1.

"We're going by the assumption we will not have lights," said Mount Hebron athletic director Michael Duffy. "We made one schedule for lights and then changed the schedule to go without lights. We can still make further changes."

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