CA funds for HCC opposed

Panel decides against recommending $200,000 gift for school building

August 06, 2006|By TYRONE RICHARDSON | TYRONE RICHARDSON,SUN REPORTER

A Columbia Association committee will recommend this week that the board of directors not approve giving $200,000 toward the construction of Howard Community College's visual and performing arts building.

The three-member Columbia Association external relations committee, assigned by the board the task of venting the pros and cons of a donation, agreed Thursday night on a 2-0 vote with one abstention to oppose the donation.

The committee's recommendation will be presented to the board of directors Thursday, when a vote is expected.

Philip W. Kirsch, chairman of the external relations committee, said that "although this is a magnificent building, we did not see any compelling reason for paying for a building for HCC."

During the meeting, Barbara L. Russell, board member representing Oakland Mills and a member of the committee, said, "I think our first responsibility is to deal with our own expenditures."

The community college is scheduled to open its $20 million Peter & Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center on Aug. 28. The facility will include an art gallery, recital hall and music and painting studios.

Before making its decision Thursday, the committee heard about 90 minutes of testimony from residents and employees of the community college.

Residents opposed to the funding said they supported the center, but did not want their annual charge helping to pay for it. Some also mentioned the association's multimillion-dollar debt.

"CA has more pressing issues, and we feel that the debt that CA has should be one issue that the funds should go to," said Phil Wright, chairman of the Harper's Choice Village Board. "We just feel that although this is a good thing for the community, this is not an appropriate use of lien fees that come from residents of Columbia."

Some supporters of the donation said that the visual and performing arts center will boost Columbia's appeal and benefit the community.

"There is no doubt that funding of a magnificent teaching facility for the arts in the center of Columbia is desperately needed. But does the decision to fund a facility come under your responsibility as described by the bylaws of Columbia Association? I look each of you in the eye and I say, yes," said Roger Caplan of River Hill. "The responsibility for creating a better town in which Columbians can live and work is indeed your responsibility."

During a meeting in June, Phil Marcus, the board member representing Kings Contrivance, suggested that the association contribute $100,000 in the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years to help HCC pay for the center. The board then deferred all discussions to the external relations committee.

Mary Ellen Duncan, HCC's president, said that although the committee did not recommend the donation, she remains optimistic that the association will reconsider.

"There is still an opportunity for CA to create a legacy for itself in the arts and to take Columbia up a notch and say the arts are an important part of the CA agenda," Duncan said. "I think a lot of groundwork was laid that night, and I think [the board] will think about it. ... We also welcome the opportunity to create a good relationship with CA and in the end, I think something good will happen one way or another."

tyrone.richardson@baltsun.com

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