Letters to the Editor


April 02, 2006

Intent for Belmont: community service

On behalf of the Howard Community College board of trustees, I am writing to provide a more complete and accurate picture of issues surrounding the Belmont Conference Center. Moreover, we affirm that HCC's sole intent for Belmont is to serve the Howard County community by providing, as our mission and vision state, "innovative solutions leading to learning breakthroughs for all students."

Tremendous vision and leadership is being applied to Belmont, especially by the college's president, Mary Ellen Duncan. And so we are highly dismayed by recent assertions that Dr. Duncan has been less than forthright regarding the partnership agreement with Harry L. "Chip" Lundy. As is her character, Dr. Duncan has always been publicly candid about the agreement and diligently sought the counsel of community representatives and leaders.

When Belmont was put up for sale in April 2004, HCC saw an opportunity to provide extraordinary educational services to Howard County. However, public funds were not available because of the timing of the budget cycle. Recognizing the need to act quickly, HCC turned to its educational foundation, which has the mission of securing nonpublic funds for educational services.

A creative funding solution came in an idea to establish a "live and learn" active adult housing community at Belmont. At the time, the idea was supported by the Maryland Historical Trust and was praised by elected officials.

Mr. Lundy made the idea a possibility. In an agreement, Mr. Lundy provided $1 million to the educational foundation to help purchase Belmont. In return, the college would work with him to help create the active adult housing. This agreement was openly discussed. News articles in November 2004 cited the agreement, and it was presented at community meetings in November and December.

By early 2005, the active adult housing community was determined to be unworkable, and the college abandoned the concept. The agreement became moot and the college began exploring ways to repay Mr. Lundy.

All of these ideas and developments were discussed with dozens of community members who serve on HCC's board of trustees and educational foundation. Elected officials and community leaders were kept informed numerous times through the process by Dr. Duncan.

Dr. Duncan's dynamic leadership and tremendous community support have made for great achievements at HCC in recent years, including the Laurel College Center, Children's Learning Center and Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center. Belmont already has become another "innovative solution" by hosting a new and exciting hospitality program serving more than 100 students. Belmont has the potential to be an exceptional educational and cultural center which the entire Howard County community can enjoy with pride. Be assured that HCC will be a fine steward.

Roberta Dillow

The writer is chairwoman of the Howard Community College board of trustees.

Visit the library -- and celebrate

It is with special pride that we celebrate this year's National Library Week (April 2-8). Why? Because for the first time, Howard County library ranks first in the nation among the great public library systems (Hennen's American Public Library Ratings) for our overall program in support of lifelong education.

Reasons for our top ranking include our visionary board of trustees, customer service-oriented staff, first-rate collection, quality programs, inspiring classes and state-of-the-art online resources. We credit our county executive, County Council and the Maryland General Assembly, as public funding is our very foundation. We also point to our Friends of Howard County Library, generous donors and loyal volunteers.

And we credit our customers who continuously inform us where we excel and where we need to improve.

Lastly, we thank the many organizations and businesses with whom we partner to leverage funding and capitalize on our collective expertise.

We celebrate all of the above, as well as recent milestones. For example, our second annual Howard County Library Spelling Bee, sponsored by The Sun, drew 51 competitors, a 34 percent increase over last year. Our goal is 100 percent participation, so every eligible student will have equal opportunity to represent Howard County at the National Spelling Bee in Washington.

Help us celebrate National Library Week! Visit our branch libraries, attend our programs and classes, search our online resources and borrow materials. I will be at every branch during the week (along with Summer Reading Club mascot Sneaks the Cat) to say hello, listen to your views and learn how Howard County library serves you. We are proud to serve this community.

Valerie J. Gross

The writer is director of the Howard County Library.

Thanks for support of Columbia's Cure

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