Is Columbia's financial house in order?The Sun...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Is Columbia's financial house in order?

The Sun quoted me out of context in its investigative report of the Columbia Association purchasing practices.

The Sun accurately reported that I was not "overly concerned" about the reporter's findings. However, there is more to the story.

During two to three hours of face-to-face and telephone interviews over several weeks, I told The Sun's reporter that I found his revelations troubling.

I told him that the apparent failure of some CA staff members to consistently follow CA's purchasing policies was unacceptable.

I told him that I would insist that CA's annual audit (to be conducted by a "Big Six" firm starting this month) look carefully at CA purchasing policies and practices and advise the council of its findings and recommendations for improvement. (The council later approved this.)

I told the reporter that CA senior staff had been directed, by me, to make sure existing purchasing policies were followed "to the letter."

I also commented that it might be time for CA to pay the additional costs of funding a centralized purchasing department similar to Leisure World's and other large businesses).

Then, I told him given the large number of purchases made by CA each year and no history of vendor complaints that at that time I was not "overly concerned" since I felt the council needed a truly independent review -- by CA's auditor -- on which to base further actions.

Mike Rethman

Columbia

The writer is former chairman of the Columbia Council.

The Sun opened a can of worms which should have been exposed long before. However, you failed to tell us how to make the Columbia Association accountable to the residents of Columbia.

If we withhold our assessment, we will be promptly slapped with penalties and liens. It is indeed very sad that the idealized dreams of Jim Rouse are being buried by a clique of mercenaries for the company which bears his name.

As for CA President Padraic Kennedy how could he remain in office for so long? The CA is a bungling, private fiefdom, with no system of checks and balances and no real leadership.

Now is the time to put Mr. Kennedy out to pasture and bring in an efficient administrator who has no ties to the Rouse Co.

Unfortunately, as the annual voter turnout so clearly demonstrates, most Columbians choose to bury their heads in the sand and not get involved, so nothing will change.

They will soon pay dearly for that. As for outgoing Columbia Council Chairman Mike Rethman, aloha. Good riddance.

obert Chesler

Columbia

Stop 'passing trash,'keep the money here

This is in response to Craig Timberg's article, "Trash means wealth, woes in rural Virginia," in the March 2 edition of The Sun in Howard.

As the article outlines, Howard, similar to other Maryland counties, has opted to ship solid waste to a privately owned landfill in King George, Va., to alleviate landfill problems.

I believe this is a bittersweet solution. We need to stop throwing money into a bottomless pit and focus on developing a real solution.

First, let us look at the facts:

The money King George, Va., generates from accepting solid waste is approximately $50 million. This is a little more than twice the amount of money currently in the King George County's general fund. As Ruth Herrink, publisher of the Journal, King George's weekly newspaper, put it, "I think our next problem is figuring out how to spend about $50 million in tax money that's coming our way." I cannot recall any Maryland county with this problem.

Exporting trash may be cheaper, but local officials must also consider the funding for trash transfer stations needed for this exporting service.

The issue of solid waste landfills, particularly in the Northeast, has become extremely hard to deal with in light of the scarcity of available and affordable land.

It has become painfully obvious that many local jurisdictions lack the business savvy necessary to be competitive in the solid waste industry. Likewise, it has become too costly for local jurisdictions to develop solid waste facilities on their own.

I propose that Marylanders consider a more logical, long-term alternative. For example, a regional solid waste program could find a location within the state for a state-of-the-art facility that serves all of Maryland. We make sure the funds continue to address Maryland's solid waste problem and not the infrastructure problems of King George, Va. Finally, a regional effort provides a solution to the funding needed for the trash transfer stations.

I think it is important that our leaders understand that we must stop "passing the buck," or in this case, "passing the trash."

Al E. Angarita Jr.

Baltimore

Rezoning foes are not 'whiners' or 'NIMBYs'

The April 13 letter to The Sun in Howard from Bernadette Byrnes charges the opponents of the Rouse Co.'s plan to rezone the Key property in North Laurel from PEC to MXD with being "NIMBYs," "close the gate factions" and "whiners."

Ms. Byrnes claims that opposition to the rezoning stems from a desire to maintain the "rural ambiance of the area." In fact, a major objection to the rezoning stems from the uncontrolled growth that has already taken place in southeast Howard County. County services have not kept pace with rampant development.

The county's attempts to catch up have burdened all Howard County residents, Ms. Byrnes included, with the highest

per-capita debt in the state. If Rouse were to develop the site now as mixed-use, there would be a significant fiscal impact on all county residents.

Perhaps the Rouse Co. has given land to the county for schools within the confines of Columbia. However, in our neighborhood, Rouse has not been so magnanimous.

The county was charged by Rouse approximately $50,000 per acre for the land for Forest Ridge Elementary and for the land occupied jointly by the new Murray Hill Middle and Southeastern Elementary schools. That one-third of Columbia is open space is not surprising since that is the amount of open space required by the New Town zoning under which Columbia developed.

However, Ms. Byrnes should understand that open space in Columbia is intended to be usable open space for churches, schools, government buildings and recreation facilities.

In contrast, most of the designated open space in Rouse's MXD proposal for the Key property includes the largest expanse of wetlands in Howard County. None of this land can be altered for any purpose without the appropriate federal environmental waivers.

Greg Fries

Laurel

The writer is chairman of the Southern Howard Land Use Committee.

Praise from a mother for guidance counselor

As the mother of two seniors at Howard High School, I would like to commend Sonya Sutter, the senior guidance counselor there, for the fantastic job that she, along with the teachers and staff, did on processing and mailing the 1997 graduates' applications for college. Their efficiency and work ethic was greatly appreciated by my family and, I am sure, by many others.

Susie Berwind

Columbia

Look at the big picture on school building aid

We are writing regarding your April 17 editorial dealing with state aid to Howard County schools. Granted, we are disappointed that Howard County's share of the school construction budget was not larger this year. However, it is important to look at the big picture. Historically, Howard County has done quite well, receiving more dollars for school construction per capita than any other jurisdiction in the state. In the preceding three years, we received more than $29 million.

Although this year's funds are lower than in previous years, many of our projects are only in the planning stages. During his visit to Hammond Elementary School, the governor specifically noted and indicated that as these projects become reality, the funds to support them will be increased accordingly.

Another very important fact is the record amount of state funds for operating expenses that Howard County will receive this year. That amount, $113.2 million, is a full $7.7 million increase from fiscal year '97. This is a considerable investment by the state at a time when state agency budgets are increasing by only 3 percent.

Howard County has always received a considerable and fair share of the funds available for school construction and operation and the entire Howard County delegation are committed to maintaining the high quality of our education system.

Whether "politics" directly impact school construction awards is conjecture. We do not take the priorities for capital funding lightly and will continue to work in Annapolis to maintain our school system's A-plus grade.

Sen. Christopher J. McCabe Sen. Martin G. Madden Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer

Annapolis

The writers represent Legislative Districts 14, 13 and 12, respectively.

The April 17 edition of The Sun in Howard has an editorial titled, "A 98-pound weakling in Annapolis." I wonder what has changed.

During the prior six years, the Howard County delegation was more like the 800-pound gorilla in Annapolis. If remembered correctly, Howard County was the highest, or near the highest, in school construction money per capita every year during this period. This year, Howard County fared poorly. What changed?

For the prior six years, the delegation was chaired by a Republican. This year the delegation is chaired by a Democrat.

An explanation for this year's poor showing might be that the governor thinks a Democrat will not give him the kind of criticism he would expect from a Republican. The delegation's Democratic leadership may be "going along to get along," but I would rather have them "show me the money."

Rose Marie Davis

Ellicott City

Pub Date: 5/04/97

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