Indian Head's Town Council has voted down, without public discussion, a request that would have incorporated the neighboring black community of Woodland Village into Indian Head.
Village residents had been asking for annexation as a means of solving water, sewer and other problems that plague their 40-year-old complex. The community of two-bedroom houses, built during World War II for black employes of a nearby naval base, has been in disrepair for several years. Civic leaders among the 500 residents have complained to the Department of Housing and Urban Development that racial discrimination prevents them from being annexed.
HUD has been investigating Indian Head's refusal to incorporate the community since 1980, and in 1981 found "substantial evidence that basic services" had been denied because of race. The Environmental Protection Agency and the state Human Relations Commission also are conducting investigations.
The town's mayor, Roy L. Budd, who serves on the three-member Town Council, contends that upgrading facilities in the village would pose too great a financial burden on the 1,381 residents of Indian Head, which has a black population of fewer than 100. It was "pure economics," he said, of his vote against annexation, "just dollars and cents."
"The people couldn't afford to bring Woodland Village's water system up to standard," Budd explained. "If the village residents want to bring it up to standard, then the town has no problem with letting them in. The easy way out is to say, 'We'll annex you,' and let the citizens pay for it. But that wouldn't be right."
Francis J. Simmons, president of the Woodland Village Civic Association, had come to the Town Council with his request for annexation after reaching land records, gathering tax maps and getting twice the number of signatures needed on a petition.
Indian Head has annexed other communities with no such formalities, Simmons said. Those neighborhoods were largely white, he added.
Although the village's roads have been repaired recently and Charles County sheriff's patrols have increased, Woodland Village's water problem remains acute, he said.
The village's small pump and tank never have been inspected and lack the capacity to feed fire hydrants, Simmons said. Four of the six hydrants in the community are inoperative, and Indian Head's fire chief has notified county and town officials that the hydrants constitute a threat to the residents.
A house in Woodland Village burned last month because the hydrant in front of it was defective, said Raymond Blake, a member of the civic association's board.
Woodland Village's residents are seeking local action while HUD officials consider taking action of their own, a spokesman said. Officials had said they found valid Simmons' charges that the town resisted an earlier annexation request, supplied false information and withheld other data from the inhabitants of Woodland Village.
The town counted Woodland Village's residents to get $278,000 in federal grants for a water system for Indian Head, but never connected Woodland Village to its system, the report said.
Officials said that actions HUD could take could include recommending the cases to the Justice Department for legal action.
HUD also is investigating the role of Charles County at Woodland Village. County officials earlier had pledged to apply for federal funds for Woodland Village's water system. But Simmons charged that the application was written in such a way that the money for water projects went to Benedict, a white community, rather than Woodland Village.
Budd and other Indian Head officials say Woodland Village is asking for special treatment, and charge that its residents are using race as a lever.
County and town officials acknowledge that utility systems at Woodland Village are not up to those in the surrounding community, but say they cannot take control of the water system until it is brought up to standards.
"The black and white town taxpayer would have to pay for that," Budd said. "You can't undo what has been done years ago. You have to go on from here. And you have to do what is right."
The county is considering putting Woodland Village in its application for federal block grants, but thus far has not intervened in the dispute.
Woodland Village formed its homeowners association several years ago, when the developer who had bought the community from the federal government in the 1950s, Virginia Investment Co., wanted to divest itself of the water system.
The association bought the system and runs it on dues collected from Woodland Village residents. Simmons has operated it himself, checking chlorine levels each day and helping neighbors unclog sewage connections that Indian Head does not service.
Residents of Woodland Village say officials too easily blame the federal goverment for placing them apart from the rest of the community in the first place. They point to other parts of the area that the town has annexed, including neighborhoods that did not first get new water systems.
The latest addition to the town was when officials annexed properties where whites lived on Woodland Village's northern border.
That annexation "was an emergency," Budd said. He said well water was being contaminated by septic overflow and residents had to carry water in buckets.
But Simmons said that the town did not annex homes of blacks who had the same contamination problem, whose properties lay directly across the railroad from the white families most recently taken into the city. He said that those families still must carry water they get from their neighbors in Woodland Village.