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Council urged to rethink cutting senior programs pTC Residents air views on proposed budget


About 20 county residents urged the Anne Arundel County Council last night to increase funding for programs for senior citizens and to eliminate funds for the East West Boulevard through Shipley's Choice.

About 100 people attended the first of four public hearings on the proposed $668.6 million operating budget for fiscal 1994 that begins July 1.

Frances Jones, executive director of the Community Advocates for Senior Opportunities, asked the council to restore a $50,000 grant to her organization.

She said she and another staffer worked for the past year on a volunteer basis to save enough money to pay for another outreach worker.

"Now I hear from the grapevine that because I have a surplus, I don't need the money. This is grossly unfair," Ms. Jones said.

She said she suspected the county preferred to spend its money for senior centers, but that her organization is the only one that has outreach workers who go to seniors' homes to provide services.

Her voice rising in anger, she described a bed-ridden woman she visited recently who had roaches crawling out of her wig and a dog sitting on her bed sharing her only meal of an egg.

Without the funding, such people will not be served through outreach, she argued.

"Now is that any way for our seniors to be living?" she said. "The priorities are cockeyed, pardon my expression."

The majority of the speakers objected to the proposed East West Boulevard, which would serve as a connector between Ritchie Highway and Veterans Highway. They urged the council to repeat its action of last year, when it took the road off the list of capital projects.

"Again, the county is trying to fund East West Boulevard, without any perceived need," said Tom Schell, treasurer of Shipley's Choice Homeowners Association. The proposed road would cut through the community.

"This is the back door to our community, not to any other community," he said. "And yet, our concerns have been totally ignored."

Mr. Schell also noted that a $4 million sewer project was being planned for a nearby development, which concerned him and other area residents who do not want to see increased density.

"It seems ludicrous that we're spending $4 million to help 30 property owners," he said. "This is another opportunity to help the developers."

Earl J. Waddington urged more funding for community athletic councils.

"The problem we are having right now, which is a problem many athletic councils are having, is we are rapidly coming close to maximizing our field resources, our gym resources and whatnot," said Mr. Waddington, secretary of the Crofton Athletic Council.

He looked forward to continued funding of sports programs and facilities "so that we can continue to serve at the high level at which we feel we are contributing."

County Executive Robert R. Neall's proposed budget and plan to downsize government found a supporter in Ray Kenney, a businessman who lives in Severna Park.

"While being lean, the proposed budget is a fair one. Government cannot be all things to all people," Mr. Kenney said. "Pass the budget as proposed and let Mr. Neall finish the job he started."

Former Councilman Theodore Sophocleus, who ran against Mr. Neall for county executive, said the reorganization effort seemed a little shortsighted.

Many community services representatives, who have direct contact with the public, were eliminated in the reorganization, and Mr. Sophocleus argued that would affect the quality of county services.

"Yes, downsizing government is necessary," he said. "But if you do it from shooting from the hip, if you do it on an across-the-board 10 percent cut, that's wrong."

At a hearing earlier in the day, the Planning Advisory Board presented the council with its recommendations on the county's proposed $106 million capital budget. Board Chairman Dallas Evans was emphatic in opposing the proposed $71 million expansion of the detention center on Jennifer Road outside of Annapolis.

"As in past years, the board does not support a major expansion of the detention center at the Jennifer Road site," Mr. Evans said. Rather, Mr. Evans recommended Mr. Neall and the council work together to develop a comprehensive corrections plan "that allows for flexibility, based on the latest policies and technology, instead of just incarcerating people."

As an interim measure, Mr. Evans said the board supported putting up a temporary work-release facility of portable, modular units on the site of a maintenance garage adjacent to the detention center at a cost of about $5 million. That would give the county time to develop a comprehensive corrections program, as well as search for a site more suitable for a jail than the cramped Jennifer Road location.

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