Make outdoor pools more affordable

The analysis of the issue of "free pools" by the Columbia Association Budget Committee was cursory at best ( "Keep golf course management, group says," Feb. 11). Although the group's report referred to "the proposal to provide free pool memberships," no such proposal was appended to their report, so it is not clear what proposal, if any, they specifically considered.

In September 2002, I submitted a proposal regarding the outdoor pools to the Columbia Council, whose members also serve as CA's board of directors. The premise is to make Columbia's outdoor pools more affordable for Columbia residents and simpler to access.

Columbia's extensive system of outdoor pools help create community by providing a place where neighbors can socialize and form strong bonds.

They should be a basic amenity, an extension of our pathway system, accessible to all residents. As a society, we should want to eliminate the image of the child peering at the pool from outside the fence surrounding it.

Features of that plan clearly rebut objections so briefly raised by the Budget Committee:

1. The pools would not be free - just nearly so. Each visitor would pay a one dollar "turnstile fee" per visit. At current usage levels, this fee would recoup about one-third of operating expenses. Usage might, however, rise under such a modest fee. (Turnstile fees might ultimately be waived during low-usage periods of the day for children and/or seniors.)

2. The "operational problem" cited by the Budget Committee of potential overcrowding can easily be addressed through capacity limits and exit turnstiles.

In addition, persons who do not live or work in Columbia could be required to pay an annual membership fee for joining just a single pool from a list of lower-usage pools.

(Nonresidents who work in Columbia could choose to purchase a season membership that would allow them access to any outdoor pool. In addition, a small number of guest passes could be allotted to each Columbia household.)

3. The "operational problem" of lifeguards forced to "baby-sit" - the Budget Committee's term - can easily be ameliorated by requiring children to be accompanied by a supervising adult.

This plan should be implemented for a trial period of a minimum of three years. Its success should be evaluated in terms of both financial measures and whether substantially more individual residents visit the outdoor pools.

I will gladly supply my outdoor pools proposal to all those interested.

Ruth Cargo


Group aids families in finding child care

In Larry Carson's article "Child care aid denied as state plans budget cut" (Feb. 4) Mr. Carson writes, "Howard's social services office began Jan. 15 turning away applicants for child care subsides ..."

Families are being turned away throughout the state due to disproportionate budget cuts in child care. How can families who are struggling to climb out of the depths of poverty expect to become self-sufficient if they cannot afford to send their children to quality child care because the aid they so desperately depend on is denied them? They are left with no other recourse but to remain in welfare system.

Mr. Carson also writes "Statewide, the cut in 2004 to child resource centers would remove $4 million of the $5.8 million appropriated this year ..." Budget cuts to these centers will devastate the child care community.

The Resource Network, which consists of 13 centers throughout the state, is an invaluable resource to the child care community as a whole. The Network helps families find child care to meet their specific needs. It provides training to individuals in topic areas that are specific to the field of early childhood education.

The training meets the mandatory training requirements set forth by the state. Also available to providers in child care at the resource centers are curriculum materials and equipment, such as laminators, to assist them in the preparing for the children they serve.

Maryland has historically made achieving a quality child care delivery system a priority. We have built a foundation. Let us continue to build upon that foundation, not demolish it.

Sue Atencio


The writer is a coordinator at the Baltimore City Child Care Resource Center

Questioning motives of zoning department

After reading the comments of Marsha S. McLaughlin, Howard County's interim planning director, on her Department of Planning and Zoning's recommendations for rezoning the properties on the north side of Montgomery Road ("Rezoning proposal focusing on U.S. 1," Feb. 11), an area which I can only assume she does not reside in, I must point out two falsehoods that she is apparently not aware of.

The YMCA and church are perfectly within their legal rights under the zoning laws and regulations to expand under their present zoning status. Any change is totally unnecessary except for future commercialization of the sites.

What " ... riled residents earlier ... " wasn't the possibility of a so-called big-box improvement center in the area, but the addition of any commercial development along the site of an already overburdened, overdeveloped residential area.

The fact that it already takes in excess of 10 minutes to travel less than a half-mile in rush hour in a residential neighborhood doesn't logically lead to turning over more land to the greedy hands of developers to make the situation even worse.

Rather an attempt should be made by Planning and Zoning on behalf of the citizens of Howard County and, particularly, those who live in the nearby area - for whom Planning and Zoning and Ms. McLaughlin allegedly work - to reverse the effects of bad decisions allowed under the regime of her predecessor.

Ms. McLaughlin knows, or should know, that her comments on both of the points referred to above are totally untrue.

It leads one to question whether the goal of Planning and Zoning under her watch will be to protect the interests of Howard County's citizens/taxpayers (and voters) or to merely serve as a rubber stamp for the money-making interests that have done their best already to ruin the quality of life in Howard County.

Michael E. Wallman

Ellicott City

Support banning steel leghold traps

Recently a fox was caught in a leghold trap in Columbia's attempt to keep the animals off of a golf course. The trap was only 50 yards from an apartment complex.

A concerned citizen rescued the fox, which is now recovering at a shelter. There is never a valid reason to use inhumane leghold traps, especially not for something as trivial as fashion or the "beautification" of a golf course.

Four Maryland counties already have a leghold trap ban in place, but many (including Howard County) do not. If you hike, bike, or otherwise enjoy the outdoors at Patapsco State Park or most other wooded areas, then leghold traps are an issue that affects you. There are no enforced regulations about where these traps can be placed. The bait in the trap often attracts pets and other unintended animals such as birds and rabbits. The traps also are a danger to you, your children, and your companion animals.

Steel leghold traps are a brutal and barbaric way to hunt an animal. It's got to be one of the slowest and most painful ways to die. Plus, since it's only intended to be a device to capture, not kill, animals are often still suffering a day or two later when the trapper arrives, then kills the animal so as to not damage the pelt.

It just seems so unnecessary, especially since there are so many other fashionable fabrics to make clothing from and so many other humane ways to keep wildlife from going into unwanted areas.

Please write a letter to your local Delegates supporting Support House Bill 365, which will ban leghold traps statewide in Maryland. Also write to the Senator of your district in support of Senate Bill 272, to ban leghold traps.

Janet Deery


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