From where Pendergrass sits, size is a...


From where Pendergrass sits, size is a big issue

For years, no one ever mentioned the size of County Council members. Stature, maybe, but not size. Not anymore.

Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, complained at a recent budget work session that her chair was too short. She asked to switch with a colleague who had a higher chair. But when she moved her chair over to make the switch, she noticed that the new chair was the same size. All the chairs were the same size.

Darrel Drown, Pendergrass' 2nd District Republican nemesis, offered a solution. "Why don't you sit on a couple of budget books," he said, reaching for one of the 5-inch thick documents.

Pendergrass winced. Never in her political life had she sat on a budget and she was not about to begin now. Instead, she took a seat next to Paul Farragut, D-4th, who was a good head and shoulders above her when seated.

Since the county cannot afford to buy higher chairs, Pendergrass devised a different solution. She arrived at last week's legislative session dressed to the nines in a spiffy blue outfit, wearing white high-top roller skates.

Roller skates?

Yes, they make her 4 inches taller, she said. On those roller skates she can look people right in the eye.

Unless, of course, the 5-foot, 2-inch Pendergrass sits next to the 6-foot 7-inch Farragut. Next time, she should try sitting next to Charles C. Feaga, R-5th. He is more her size. Attention all you Columbia residents tired of having the explain why your address is "Ellicott City" or "Jessup":

Tough luck.

The U.S. Postal Service has informed the residents of the eastern part of Huntington that not only can't they change their ZIP code, but they are also prohibited from putting "East Columbia" on their correspondence.

There are probably valid reasons for allowing such changes. The reasoning is not evident, however, from the Postal Service's response to the unfortunate residents of the remote corner of King's Contrivance village, isolated by Interstate 95.

Here is an excerpt from Mr. ZIP's explanation of why people can't use East Columbia with the Jessup ZIP code, 20794:

"When a directional is part of the last line of any address, a significant portion of the mail becomes missent during processing. Our processing equipment will often ignore the directional; thus, East or E Columbia MD becomes Columbia MD and is missent as a result."

No wonder the machines are so confused. Language like that could send anyone to the wrong post office.

Residents of "East Columbia" have petitioned the Postal Service three times over the last 10 years to be included in the Columbia, 21046 ZIP code. But the service has said this would be too costly, among other things.

Just so they know they are not alone, there are some other incongruities in county ZIP codification:

* Residents of most of Columbia's Dorsey's Search village are lumped into Ellicott City, 21042. That ZIP code is shared by residents of Triadelphia Road about one-eighth of a mile from the post office serving Glenelg, 21737. Dorsey's residents south of Route 108 are luckier, with a Columbia ZIP, 21044.

* The long-awaited 10th village of Columbia, River Hill, is technically the first village of Clarksville, 21029.

* In the interstellar collision category, we have the Applied Physics Laboratory. Just outside of its eastern property line is Columbia, 21044 (really, it's the Riverside neighborhood, which, unlike Huntington, is not really in Columbia). Across its western boundary is Clarksville, 21029. Keep going west for a quarter-mile and you're in Fulton, 20759.

So where is APL? It's in Laurel, 20723.

Erik Nelson

Handle budget with care

"I'm wondering," Helen M. Stemler said to the County Council, "how many of you have been to a bridal shower lately."

The looks she got in reply ranged from surprised to dubious. After all, it was the first time the four-man, one-woman council had been asked that question during a Saturday morning of testimony about the Board of Education's budget request. The council members didn't volunteer information about their experiences with bridal showers.

But Stemler, health programs supervisor for the county school system and a Columbia resident, pressed on undaunted because she had a point to make about school budgets, Waterford crystal and Tupperware.

At a shower Stemler attended recently, the bride-to-be received a Waterford crystal vase. She held it up to the light, admiring the perfect cut of the glass, treasuring the gift.

Stemler has Tupperware at home. She can drop it on the floor and it won't break. You wouldn't treat children that way, she said.

If you set Tupperware on a hot stove coil, it flattens. And in Stemler's view, you wouldn't treat the school budget that way.

Twenty county residents spoke at the budget hearing. Several speakers made Stemler's point about not institutionalizing this fiscal year's emergency budget cuts. But Stemler was the only one to put the point in terms of glassware and plastic ware.

"If we have a system that is perfect, like the vase, we wouldn't want it to chip or crack," she told the council.

Donna E. Boller

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