County calculates extra security costs at $2.8 million

Howard County's first effort to calculate its extra security costs caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks totals $2.8 million. The county compiled the estimate, which covers police and fire requests, at the request of the Maryland Association of Counties.

While county police stuck mainly to overtime expenses for such things as providing security for mosques and synagogues and operating the county's emergency center to respond to the now common "white substance" calls, the fire department added a list of equipment needed for an attack. Raymond S. Wacks, the county budget director, said the county has not spent all the overtime money allocated in the budget.

County Executive James N. Robey was among state leaders who met with Gov. Parris N. Glendening in Reisterstown on Thursday to ask for help to fill financial holes and provide for equipment rejected in the past.

County bus system plans route adjustments, changes

With ridership soaring, Howard County's bus system is planning a series of route adjustments and changes starting tomorrow designed to cover more territory and add convenience.

The county is struggling to find ways to get people who do not have cars to hard-to-fill jobs in an upscale county dominated by privately owned, personal vehicles. And with the county's senior population predicted to triple by 2020, the transit system will become more important for retirees.

Ridership increased 53.4 percent in the year ended June 30 compared with the previous year - nearly 100,000 more trips - and jumped another 57 percent in the next three months, said Ray Ambrose, administrator of Corridor Transit Corp., which operates the eight routes of Howard Transit's system.

CA board OKs $3 million in capital projects for 2003

The Columbia Association's board of directors has given preliminary approval to more than $3 million in capital projects to be included in the draft budget for fiscal year 2003, including improvements to the Columbia Swim Center and studies to clear the way for dredging at two silt-choked lakes.

The board intends to maintain the current rate of 73 cents for each $100 of assessed property value, according to a statement issued by Columbia Association President Maggie J. Brown.

The budget is expected to be made final by a board vote in late February. A public hearing on the spending plan is scheduled for Dec. 20.

Residents show support for county drug court

Howard County, with its socioeconomically diverse population and location between two major cities, is an ideal place for a drug court, several residents told members of the Howard County Drug Treatment Task Force at a public meeting Tuesday.

"Many parents here cover up their children's drug problems because of their high socioeconomic status," Karen Speights-Diggs, a Columbia resident, said during the meeting. "They say, 'It's only marijuana' or 'It's only one time' when their kids get in trouble. They're not taking ownership of the problem."

Funded by a Horizon Foundation grant, the task force began its research in March and has toured several drug courts in New York and in the Baltimore area in the past few months. The task force will probably will make a formal recommendation late next month, said Howard County State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon, a task force member.

After audit, school officials to study recommendations

Now that the results of the long-awaited performance audit of Howard's schools have been released, school and county officials face the arduous task of determining which of the report's many recommendations are valid, valuable, doable or too difficult to even consider.

Howard schools Superintendent John R. O'Rourke said he was excited about Monday's release of the Management and Performance Review and was "looking forward to capitalizing on it," but he refused to comment on details in the report, including individual findings.

County Executive James N. Robey - whose office paid for half of the $250,000 audit by Houston-based WCL Enterprises - said the study offered many suggestions for improvement, but some, including spending $3.45 million more in the capital budget for technology, were "difficult to swallow."

Schrader's wife enters race for Madden's seat

The search for Senate Minority Leader Martin G. Madden's replacement narrowed last week when Dennis R. Schrader, former Howard County councilman, said he won't seek Madden's seat but will support the candidacy of his wife, Sandra.

"I know the district very well. I've worked in politics for 14 years. I'm throwing my hat in the ring," Sandra Schrader said after an hourlong Republican Party meeting Monday at the library in Savage.

Two other candidates remain in the intra-party contest for appointment to Madden's seat - county party Chairman Louis M. Pope and Bob Adams, a Long Reach resident trying for his first public office.

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