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Council hires firm to help in search for new president

The Columbia Council has agreed to spend up to $35,000 to find a new Columbia Association president and has hired a Chicago-based executive search consultant to help.

The council chose the search firm DMG-MAXIMUS late Thursday at a meeting. It voted to spend $17,500 for consulting fees, up to $8,500 for the firm's expenses and up to $9,000 for the expenses of finalists asked to travel to Columbia for interviews.

DMG-MAXIMUS' headquarters are in Tallahassee, Fla., but the consultant who is working with the Columbia Association is based in the company's Chicago office, said Councilman Kirk Halpin of Kings Contrivance, chairman of the council's executive search firm selection committee.

Horse Center saddled with series of woes

The uncertain fate of the Columbia Horse Center is causing upheaval at the facility and, some say, taking a toll on the health of its animals.

The number of horses boarded at the barn has fallen by more than half since January, resulting in a loss of about $10,000 a month in revenue.

Workers say lameness and illness among the remaining animals have increased - including an outbreak of life-threatening colic that required surgery for one horse.

Staff members attribute the problems to poor maintenance and a sudden switch to a cheaper feed.

Funds to make capital improvements are frozen. Staff members are leaving and are not being replaced.

Columbia Association officials with other full-time responsibilities and no background in equine management are in charge at the center. And the day-to-day responsibilities of barn management have largely fallen to someone who became interested in horses two years ago, when her daughter started taking riding lessons. Her only training has been the on-the-job variety.

Dorsey man held in death of wife missing for 4 years

Four years after his wife disappeared without a trace, Paul Stephen Riggins Jr. was arrested and charged in her death Thursday after running from the officers who came to take him into custody at his Dorsey home.

A Howard County grand jury had returned a first-degree murder indictment against Riggins, 43, earlier in the day despite the fact that Nancy Lee Riggins' body has not been found. The grand jury heard from more than 30 witnesses during three months of testimony.

The arrest came four years after Nancy Riggins, 37, was reported missing by her husband on July 3, 1996 - a day after he said he returned to their house on Adcock Lane to find her gone and their 5-year-old daughter, Amanda, home alone.

Developer agrees to plan for fewer units

After 32 hearings, more than a hundred hours of testimony and several tense work sessions, the Maple Lawn Farms case appears to be drawing to a close.

Stewart J. Greenebaum, developer of the project, said Thursday that he plans to reduce the proposed number of houses in the Maple Lawn Farms project by 52, as the Howard County Zoning Board requested Wednesday night. His willingness to work with the board suggests that Howard County's longest-running zoning case is nearing its conclusion.

The board will hold another work session Oct. 2 to discuss Greenebaum's response to its request, said Zoning Board member Guy J. Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat. He said board members need to decide whether the 52-unit reduction is substantial enough to warrant more public hearings. If not, he said, and if the developer complies with their request, it is likely that the board - which doubles as the County Council - will cast its final vote.

West Nile virus found in pair of dead crows

Two dead crows found a few miles from each other two weeks ago in Baltimore and Howard counties were infected with West Nile virus, the first appearances of the disease in Maryland this year, state officials said Thursday.

In response, the state Department of Agriculture announced it would spray for mosquitoes, which are thought to carry the virus, between 7 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Saturday in the area where the dead birds were found.

The insecticide Permethrin was sprayed from trucks traveling local streets within two miles of the intersection of U.S. 29 and Route 32 in Columbia and the U.S. 1 and Interstate 95 corridor in portions of Baltimore and Howard counties. Although the insecticide is not harmful to humans, animals or the environment, department officials recommend that those who object to the spraying stay inside or leave the area during the spraying.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the state would step up monitoring in the areas where the dead birds were found.

$19 million more asked for school district budget

Howard County school officials released a capital budget Thursday for the 2001-2002 school year that is about $19 million more than last year's spending plan and includes, surprisingly, a 12th high school set to open in 2004.

At $69.5 million, Superintendent John R. O'Rourke's proposed 2002 capital budget is about $16 million more than last year's school board proposal of $53.6 million. The County Council funded $50.6 million of that.

The need for an increase is largely out of school officials' control, said Sydney L. Cousin, associate superintendent for finance and operations. Construction costs have increased by 16 percent, Cousin said, causing the same projects listed in last year's budget plan to cost about $8 million more next year.

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