Council to decide on money for school computers


The school board will get its last chance this year to receive $500,000 in seed money for a sophisticated computer network when the County Council convenes tonight in its final meeting before the Nov. 8 election.

The council approved the money in its budget deliberations in the spring but has been holding it in a contingency account until school officials came up with a detailed proposal for the pilot program dubbed ASAP, the Advanced School Automation Project.

School officials presented the proposal to council members before the last meeting two weeks ago. But several council members still were not satisfied and expressed concerns about whether spending the first $500,000 would commit the future council to the entire five-year, $35 million project.

Council members also are worried that any equipment bought today will become obsolete quickly, certainly before the last machines are purchased in five years.

In other action, the council will hold a hearing on a bill that would allow the county's firefighters to retire after 20 years at half their salary, as county police are allowed, instead of the current 25 years. The change was negotiated between the firefighters' union and County Executive Robert R. Neall's administration.

Union officials said the increased cost, estimated at $5.5 million by the county's budget office, could be offset by allowing the county to invest the assets in the pension fund in investments that would bring a higher return. The bill was endorsed by the Pension Oversight Commission last week.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at the Arundel Center in Annapolis. At 3:30 p.m., officials from the Maryland Department of Transportation will present the annual report on highway projects in Anne Arundel ** County.

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