Residents want more CA, council programs


Expecting federal budget cuts, Columbia residents called last night for the Columbia Association (CA) to expand efforts to serve broader segments of the population, especially senior citizens and disadvantaged youth.

At a hearing to solicit ideas for the association's 1996-1997 budget, residents also urged the Columbia Council to take a more active role in preserving the planned community's quality of life through crime prevention and stronger enforcement of property maintenance guidelines.

"Think about the original concepts of Columbia -- a diverse community of people from all levels of income," May Ruth Seidel, a 25-year resident and community activist, told the council, the nonprofit association's board of directors. "Think about the community services that are badly needed."

Ms. Seidel, one of 12 residents to speak, praised the council for expanding a discount program this year, allowing more children from low-income families to attend association summer camps.

Richard F. Kirchner, representing the new group Columbians for Howard County, recommended the council focus on maintaining older neighborhoods by improving lighting, developing public safety programs and ensuring that aging homes, sidewalks and community buildings are repaired.

He also urged cable television coverage of council meetings to improve communications, and addressing concerns of senior citizens who are "largely unserved by existing CA programs."

Curtailing crime -- especially juvenile incidents -- was a top concern for Ronnie Koppelman, who said she has become fearful. She challenged the council to develop "new ideas, not Band Aid approaches" to address the problem.

She also recommended filling a need for college students and young adults who grew up in Columbia by sponsoring a coffeehouse as an alternative to bars. "I want them to feel this is their hometown," she said.

Other speakers advocated a leaner association, urging the council to reduce the association's $87 million debt, decrease costs without diminishing services, eliminate superfluous programs and increase use of facilities.

Joan Lancos, a former Columbia Council member and current Howard County Planning Board chairwoman, challenged the council to "do more with less" as county government has done. She also complimented the association as "a class act."

Other requests included:

* A grant of $3,000 to help a citizens group, seeking to incorporate Columbia as a city, pay for a University of Maryland study.

* Capital improvements such as expanded parking for the new River Hill village swimming pool and renovation of Swansfield's neighborhood center.

The association imposes an annual levy on property owners to oversee recreational facilities, community programs and parkland maintenance, and has a $33.2 million operating budget this year.

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