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Hayden promises help for center in Dundalk


Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden says he intends to find a way to keep Dundalk Recreation Center open after county funding runs out July 1, but residents of the area remain skeptical.

Mr. Hayden said his office would work with the Dundalk-Eastfield Recreation Council and private businesses to find private funding. But he reiterated that the county will no longer fund operations at the center.

"If we all work together on this, we can save the center for the community," he told a group of 200 Dundalk residents at the Northpoint Government Center Wednesday.

Mr. Hayden announced in February that he was cutting the center's funds from his fiscal 1994 budget to save money. The former YMCA building in old Dundalk houses many indoor recreational programs and the only indoor Olympic-size pool in the county.

The county executive said Wayne R. Harman, the county's recreation and parks director, will chair a committee that will include the local recreation council and residents. The panel will review several proposals and solicit contributions.

Several in the audience said Mr. Hayden was long on commitment, but short on time.

"The problem with that is we only have 33 days until July 1 to resolve this," said Bruce Mills, a recreation council member. "If the county would agree to fund the center for three months or six months past July 1, I think we would have enough time to put something together."

But Mr. Hayden was noncommittal about possible short-term funding.

"Let's see what the committee comes up with first," Mr. Hayden said. "I will say we will be reasonable about this."

Mark Persiani, recreation council president, said it will be important that the local business community back an effort to keep the center open. But Mr. Harman cautioned that it will take substantial money.

Mr. Harman said it cost his agency $72,000 to operate the pool, gymnasium and weight room this year, while the central services department spent $99,000 for heating, lighting and maintenance.

The center also needs repairs in the near future that will cost almost $300,000, he said.

That prompted resident Joann Lee to hit Mr. Hayden and other elected officials with a challenge:

"You elected officials are good at holding fund-raisers to keep yourselves in office," Mrs. Lee said. "If you're serious about helping us find money to keep the center open, how about getting your political contributors together and hold a fund-raiser for us."

If the center is forced to close, Mr. Harman said, most of the recreation programs could be relocated. Local school gyms could be used for basketball and indoor soccer programs, he said, and most swimming programs could be switched to the Dundalk Community College pool.

"The hardest program to relocate is going to be the Dundalk-Eastfield Swim Club team because it needs to use a pool four or five times a week," Mr. Harman said.

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