Robey files legislation to adopt plan to slow residential growth

Howard County Executive James N. Robey has filed legislation to adopt a General Plan that would slow the pace of residential growth by 25 percent.

The proposed General Plan 2000 will go before the County Council, which will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 18 to hear residents' comments.

County officials said they hope that the plan - which is the third draft of what will serve as the county's master plan for the next 20 years - will be approved. "We expect that there will be some slight changes, but we think that overall we have addressed people's concerns," said Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of the Department of Planning and Zoning.

The plan, which was filed last week, seeks to reduce the number of new housing units from an average of 2,000 a year to 1,500 units a year over 20 years.

Modern library with cafe opens in Glenwood

Western Howard County residents, once so far from a sizable library that some defected to Carroll County to borrow books, now have a state-of-the-art facility with a cutting-edge extra - a cafe.

At the Glenwood branch library's grand opening Monday night, visitors admired the building's agriculture-themed architecture, and sampled coffee and cake from the cafe .

Howard County officials believe that the cafe - part of a nationwide trend in libraries - is a first for Maryland, although the Pikesville library has offered coffee and wrapped snacks at its information desk since February.

Library officials opened the building a week early to accommodate Lisbon residents, whose small store-front library closed Aug. 12. Monday night's opening drew about 200 people from western Howard County. Residents have been waiting for this library - the sixth branch in Howard County's library system and the only one serving western Howard for years: "They've been lobbying for this library since 1980," said Norma Hill, director of the county library system.

SAT scores in Howard drop for second consecutive year

The overall SAT score for Howard County students dropped for the second consecutive year - this time by 10 points - causing school officials to worry that a trend is surfacing.

This year's composite score was 1071 out of a possible 1600, according to results released by the school system. Last year's overall score of 1081 was 3 points lower than the year before.

School officials said they are concerned about the drop but need more time to assess what is happening and how it can be corrected.

"This is two years in a row that we've dropped," said schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan. "We want to go up. You expect every once in a while that that's going to happen. Two years in a row is of more concern to us."

The county's verbal score dropped 4 points, from 534 to 530. The math score fell from 547 to 541.

Caplan said the county is particularly concerned about the dip in math: "We have already taken steps within the last year to make sure our resources are really focused in the area of mathematics. But it's still too early to draw any conclusions."

Transfer of prisoners brings avoidable risks, official says

Howard County Police Chief Wayne Livesay said Tuesday that a burglary suspect's short-lived escape from custody is a glaring example of why the county needs to stop transferring prisoners to Ellicott City for bail hearings, creating unnecessary costs and safety risks.

For several years, Livesay said, he has asked that District Court judges appoint a bail commissioner to the Southern District, eliminating prisoner transfers. Livesay said his oral and written requests have been turned down repeatedly.

"With a commissioner in the Southern District, an incident like the recent prisoner escape could be easily avoided," Livesay said. "A dedicated commissioner for bail hearings would be less risky and more cost-effective to the citizens of Howard County."

Because of limited personnel and resources, Howard police officers do not transfer prisoners for bail hearings, but instead contract the job to Wackenhut Security Services, a national company. The problem, Livesay said, is that taking a vanload of prisoners and driving them 10 miles, only to bring them back, is a serious public safety risk that could be avoided.

School is back in session; drivers told to slow down

As recent car accidents in Howard County have shown, life can change - and end - in an instant when drivers travel at high speeds.

So while students shuffled into classrooms for the start of the school year last week, Howard police officers were teaching lessons to drivers who fly through school zones without safety in mind. Through this week, officers will set up daily speed zones outside elementary, middle and high schools - making sure drivers know that if they choose to speed and put others in danger, they will do so at a substantial cost.

"We hope that police presence around schools will send a message to drivers to slow down," said Capt. Mike Kessler of the Special Operations Division. "Students throughout the region will be walking and driving to and from school, and we want to make sure every one of them arrives safely."

The program is called Helping Arriving Students Through Enforcement (HASTE) and has existed for several years, but without much fanfare. However, with recent high-speed accidents claiming the lives of Howard teen-agers, the program becomes more relevant, said Cpl. Sue Goldman, one of the officers warning and ticketing drivers each day in school zones.

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