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CA urged to reassess 'mission,' residents' needs 2nd hearing held on 1997 budget


Concerned about what it calls "philosophical questions," Columbians for Howard County urged the Columbia Council last night to review the mission of the Columbia Association to make sure it is meeting the needs of residents.

"Is CA fulfilling its mission?" asked May Ruth Seidel, a co-founder of the group. "Are all Columbians being served by CA? What are the community needs? "Is it a community service provider enhancing the quality of life for people living or working in Columbia or is CA an incorporated business venture with a primary goal of making money? The latter was not the intent of the those who created CA."

Ms. Seidel asked those questions at the second of two public hearings this week on the CA's proposed $38 million budget for the 1997 fiscal year, which will begin May 1.

Last night's hearing was packed with representatives of Columbia's 10 village boards and community groups, who urged the 10-member council to fund their programs and projects.

The residents asked for money for covenant enforcement, tot lots, village and neighborhood signs, and a student exchange program.

Among the defenders of the budget was Bob Conors of the Dorsey's Search Village Board, who said, "We believe the budget is sound and fiscally responsible."

Ms. Seidel, however, said, "We are disturbed and embarrassed as we compare the amounts of new money [about $11,000] allocated for youth-positive programs as compared to $275,000 for proposed engineering specs for the West Side recreation facility" in the Village of River Hill.

She also expressed concern about $70,000 allotted for a survey concerning a proposed ice rink-family fun center, asking, "How many camp scholarships swim lessons for poor children and/or subsidized memberships in existing CA facilities would $70,000 buy?"

She asked the council to consider appointing residents to a task force to study their needs.

The Columbia Council -- the board of directors for the CA, the nonprofit homeowners association -- will vote on the budget this month.

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