Lack of state funds likely to postpone Blandair project

General Assembly approves bond money for museum, crisis and community centers

April 14, 2006|By LAURA CADIZ | LAURA CADIZ,SUN REPORTER

The county's restoration of the Blandair Mansion sustained a slight setback at the end of the General Assembly when the county did not receive $500,000 in state bond money.

The county had requested the money -- which it had planned to match, bringing the total to $1 million -- to help offset design and preliminary site development costs. Without that state money, the county will have to cover the total cost, possibly in the next budget year or the year after that, said Gary J. Arthur, director of the Department of Recreation and Parks.

As part of the effort to create the 300-acre Blandair Park, between Thunder Hill Road and Tamar Drive in Columbia, the county is renovating the historic mansion. While the lack of the bond money likely will delay the project, which Arthur said will go through 2010, the county transfer tax might provide a source of funding.

"We don't believe it's going to be that big of a setback," Arthur said. "It would have been nice to have that bond money. ... Any time you can put an additional million into a park project, it's going to go quicker."

Mary Catherine Cochran, president of Preservation Howard County, called any delay "a shame."

"The surrounding communities of Oakland Mills and Long Reach are really going to benefit from the active recreational resources [of the park]," she said. "We're hoping that the county will come through and save the day by funding it as much as they can."

The county received state bond money for three projects. The legislature approved $300,000 for developing the North Laurel Community Center; $450,000 for the expansion of the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center; and $150,000 to help create a Living Farm Heritage Museum on county-owned land in West Friendship.

The county had requested $500,000 each for the community center and Grassroots projects and $200,000 for the farm museum. Jim Vannoy, an aide to County Executive James N. Robey, said getting a lower amount is typical.

"We're just happy to get any money at all, frankly," he said. "There are many more projects than money."

Cochran called the three funded endeavors "great projects" and said, "There's only so much money to go around, you hate to whine and complain when you don't get it."

The county also did not receive state money for developing Troy Hill Park in Elkridge or the James and Anne Robinson Nature Center. The county had requested $500,000 for each project.

Vannoy said those projects are in the county's budget, and they will go forward.

"It's just a question of when the projects can be fully funded and completed," he said.

Victoria Goodman, the county communications director, said the county prioritizes its bond requests, and the legislature funded the top choices.

"Every year, when we go into the whole session, we do realize that it'd be nice to get it all," she said. "But we usually don't."

The state also dolled out funding for three other county entities. The county will receive nearly $167 million for K-12 schools and about $18 million for school construction and renovations; Howard Community College's operating budget will reach nearly 10 million for fiscal 2007; and Howard County General Hospital will receive $325,000 toward creating a Behavior Emergency Unit.

laura.cadiz@baltsun.com

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