Fearing they could lose a day program in western Howard County for developmentally disabled adults, a group of parents is demanding a greater role in the organization that operates the workshop.
Officials at the ARC of Howard County's day program, which offers training in hygiene and job skills to county residents with severe mental retardation and other disabilities, are considering the sale of the Wright Building in Farside, which houses the program.
That possibility comes as the group -- which serves 150 developmentally disabled county residents at sites in Howard and Anne Arundel counties -- weighs how to distribute its resources and serv
ices, said ARC President Carol Beatty.
Parents worry that sale of the building could force closure of the west county day program.
To make sure their concerns are taken into consideration, they are demanding one-third representation on ARC's 22-member board.
ARC "is supposed to be for all Howard County residents," Jack Klaufuss, who has a son in the program, told ARC officials at a meeting of about 50 people last weekend.
"But we feel as though we're unheard parts of this organization," he added.
However, ARC officials say the parents' concern is unfounded.
The officials maintain that although ARC is considering the sale of the Wright Building, there are no plans to eliminate the day program.
"This organization is really committed to" the day program, said Ms. Beatty. "Actually, we are planning to expand those services to serve more people."
The group -- formerly known as the Association for Retarded Citizens of Howard County -- works with disabled county residents at
the Wright Building, at Fort Meade and at offices in east Columbia, where it also has administrative offices.
ARC officials want one site that would house several of its programs, rather than have them dispersed.
But they say that the 15-year-old Wright Building -- constructed with county and state money on 5.3 acres donated by Ellicott City's Wright family -- may not be the best site.
The 13,000-square-foot facility lacks electronic doors and bathroom facilities to provide adequate wheelchair access, they say.
It also needs repairs, including some to its front door.
The group's board is considering three options:
* Selling the Wright Building and purchasing another building that would house several of ARC's services, including the day program.
* Renovating and expanding the building to house several of the organization's programs.
* Renovating the building and maintaining its current services.
"We are clear that something's got to be done to this building if we're going to be here," Margaret Gold, president of the ARC's board, told the residents at the meeting last weekend.
Parents, meanwhile, insist that they be given a formal voice in the organization before final decisions are made.
They note that although ARC's board includes two disabled people and 10 parents, no board members are parents of people in the day program.
And parents say those served by the program need aggressive advocates.
"They may have male or female grown-up bodies, but they're still like children," said Ted Geppert, who has a disabled daughter.
Ms. Beatty said ARC's board will consider the parents' concerns at its next meeting, which will be held Feb. 26.