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The Baltimore Sun

BRAC presents major opportunity

BRAC, the federal program designating the realignment and closure of military bases, will bring between 40,000 and 60,000 new jobs to Maryland. The greatest number of BRAC jobs in the state will be at Fort Meade.

Anne Arundel County officials have estimated that over the next five to seven years the direct and indirect jobs coming to Fort Meade could grow to as many as 24,000.

The overall annual economic boost from BRAC job expansion is pegged at $1 billion. When people move into an area, they need goods and services. Small business, especially in the Fort Meade area, stand to gain from BRAC.

The influx of new jobs at Fort Meade will demand highway and school improvements. Improving transportation routes to accommodate BRAC expansion at Fort Meade is estimated to cost $5 billion. This includes extending the Metro Green Line from Greenbelt to the BWI Parkway and overhauling Routes 175, 198 and 3.

Approved state widening of Route 175 will cost $270 million. However, without obtaining any federal land for the project, the expansion of Route 175 is limited to 5.2 miles of highway, widened from four to six lanes in congested areas leading to Fort Meade and widening from two to four or five lanes near the future Odenton Town Center.

Where schools are concerned, federal impact aid is based on actual enrollment of children of federal workers who live on the military base.

Maryland congressional and state representatives are pushing for changes in federal law to allow the immediate release of impact funds to ease the pressure of increased enrollment and enable schools to plan for student growth before that growth occurs.

Currently, the federal government does not compensate state and local government sufficiently to cover the cost of the military presence. Maryland and Anne Arundel County governments receive $3.5 million in federal impact funds for the seven schools at Fort Meade, but spend $99 million to educate military-dependent children who attend these schools.

Gov. Martin O'Malley has created a sub-cabinet, headed by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, to coordinate planning for and manage BRAC through 2011. Accommodating BRAC growth must be a shared effort by federal, state and local government.

Planned effectively, funded adequately and managed well, BRAC represents a real opportunity for economic growth in Maryland and Anne Arundel County.

James E. DeGrange Sr. Glen Burnie

The writer is the state senator for District 32.

Don't treat loss of trees so lightly

It boggles the mind that the reporter covering the "clear-cut[ting] of dozens of trees" in Maryland City ("Tree line gives way to sightline," June 3) chose to write the story as a cheery, feel-good piece.

Fifty-foot tall trees don't get that way overnight, despite the toss-off quote from the Jessup resident that "Trees grow back. If you cut them down today, they come back tomorrow."

Surely your reporter could have spoken to someone who could comment about the soil erosion that will result from clear-cutting such a stand. Trees' roots grow deep underground. Those roots hold the soil in place when it rains. The leaves dropped in Fall decay and replenish the soil.

Saplings planted today will be saplings tomorrow, the next day and many days thereafter, with minimal root systems.

Aside from the erosion, there are air quality ramifications. The busy traffic described by your reporter no doubt spews pollution into Maryland City's air. These 50-foot trees - obviously hardy enough to survive the heat and exhaust of automobiles - gave Maryland City citizens a lot more oxygen than the saplings will, if they even survive the traffic.

We haven't even touched on the destruction of wildlife habitat.

I'm no expert, but there had to have been some source who could have provided another facet to this tale of a quickly vanishing natural environment.

This story should not have been a fluff piece. Anne Arundel County readers are not served well by such journalistic choices.

With BRAC approaching, more trees will be cut down to make way for people. The Sun should be more aware of the environmental impact of such action and not toss it of as a light feature.

S.A. Kalinich Arnold

Penalize violators of handicap parking

The county needs money, and John Leopold has an idea: let's double the fine for parking illegally in handicap parking from $100 to $200. That is a great idea, and I call on the Anne Arundel County Council to support him on this motion. I can't tell you how many times I have gone through parking lots and seen people parked in a handicap parking spot without a disability placard hanging from their rearview mirror or a handicap license plate. Are these people disabled?

Better yet, I see people with canes, walkers, and sometimes even wheelchairs coming from the parking places in the back because people parked in the handicap parking spaces without proper documentation. One day you should go to a store, a Wal-Mart or something and go and just sit in your car where you can see the handicap parking spaces. Let me know how many people walk without a problem back to their car, and then drive out of the parking lot. I have seen many.

In addition to raising this fine, we need police officers that will enforce the law as it is. Those parking places are there for the disabled. Either way, this is a step in the right direction, and County Executive Leopold has made the right decision. I hope the County Council will agree with him on Monday night.

Victor Henderson Glen Burnie

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