A possible three-year delay in building a 23,000-square-foot community center that would bring western Howard County its first full-service library has drawn sharp criticism from some residents who say the move is part of a continuing pattern of neglect.
"I pay almost $6,000 a year in taxes and all they do is take, take, take," said Jeff Lanuza, who lives in Woodbine. "We choose to live out here, but we don't get our fair share for what we pay.
"There's ice rinks and movies in Columbia, and we can't even get a library for our children out in the western end and it's costing us a fortune to live out here."
Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker proposed last week to cut the $14.5 million multiservice complex -- tentatively called the Glenwood Center -- from this year's capital budget, pushing back its opening date to 2002 at the earliest.
The library, the first phase of the project, was scheduled to open in fall 1999 at the earliest. Plans call for further phases of the complex to include a recreation center, a gymnasium, an expanded senior center and offices for the Health Department, as well as police and fire stations.
County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, who represents western Howard, said he plans to try to get the library project back on schedule, saying he hopes its cut from the county executive's budget was "an oversight."
"We certainly are long overdue on the library," Feaga said. "It has been neglected in the last 15 years, and this would be an opportunity to get it going."
The County Council must review the capital budget and make changes -- before approving some version of it this spring. The first public hearing on the capital budget -- which allocates money for county-funded building projects -- is April 24.
County officials say the county needs other projects more than it needs the Glenwood Center, but many residents of western Howard say a library complex is long overdue.
The nearest full-service county library is in Ellicott City -- about 20 miles from the proposed library, which would sit on a 181-acre tract along Route 97.
Library services are available from a smaller branch in a storefront in Lisbon -- open only four days a week -- and at a Carroll County branch in Mount Airy.
"I'm really disappointed to see the library not coming for another five years down the road," said Bobbie Leon, corresponding secretary of the Parent Teacher Student Association at West Friendship Elementary School. "There's an overload at the Miller branch [in Ellicott City] and in Columbia because there's just not adequate facilities out this way for kids."
More than 20,000 people live in the western part of the county, and that number is expected to grow by 8,000 residents by 2010, placing more of a burden on services, residents and county officials say.
But county officials, such as Budget Director Raymond S. Wacks, say the more densely populated eastern Howard has more pressing needs, and in the world of capital budgets, where "the needs are high and the sources limited," those priorities typically are met first.
"The whole process of the capital budget is about making choices," Wacks said. "We've made the choice to focus money on education first, then roads and then libraries. It's [the Glenwood Center] in line. It's waiting its turn."
Some residents say that projects such as the Glenwood Center have been forced to stand in line behind school construction for too long. Three new schools are planned in the next five years in western Howard.
"There's lots of tax revenues coming from this portion of the county, and there's lots of educated voters out here who aren't going to be happy finding there's no library coming for years for their children," said Mary Boguslaw of West Friendship.
Penny Gray, who sold the Glenwood property to the county in 1993, added: "We've waited long enough for this facility, and west countians are always last on the list for projects.
Not everyone is disappointed to see the project pushed back. Some residents are elated to know they have a few more years to enjoy the rural character of the area before it gets the more than 600 parking spaces that will accompany the Glenwood Center.
"I'm so glad to hear that center isn't coming anytime soon," said Donna Burton, who has lived in Cooksville for almost a half century. "We have too much congestion up here already. When someone wants to live in the country, they can't mind driving 20 minutes to the library or shopping center.
"If you want Columbia where everything is, stay in Columbia."
Pub Date: 4/01/97