The Charles County commissioners plan to ask for an exception to Maryland law to obtain $200,000 in state money to build an activity center to serve some of the county's 6,073 senior citizens. It would be the first such facility for the elderly in the county.

State money is supposed to be used for senior centers only when a surplus school or other public building is converted for that use.

But the commissioners say they will cite an exception granted to Howard County, which was allowed to build a new facility because no vacant schools were available.

Charles County officials say they will ask the county delegation to the General Assembly to propose a change in the law during the next legislative session.

Charles is the only county in southern Maryland lacking a facility for programs for the elderly.

The director of the county's Aging Services program and social workers there say the needs of the elderly are particularly acute in a rural area such as Charles County, which has no public transportation network.

"We get an average of 60 or 70 calls a month from seniors who need help paying their heating bills," counselor Theresa Strong said.

The county operates a "shopping shuttle" three days a week that takes elderly residents to grocery and drugstores along Rte. 301 in Waldorf.

An old school bus is used to pick up between 40 and 50 persons and return them three hours later, Strong said.

"We operate nutrition and fellowship programs at several sites, but people must usually get their own transportation to these programs," said Margaret E. Cheseldine, director of government services.

" . . . We really need a central location so we can offer 24-hour services to our elderly rather than offer numerous satellite programs," Cheseldine said.