Smoking Ban Weighed at County Offices Officials are considering a ban on smoking at the county government complex because a more liberal policy apparently has failed.

In the 12 years since the government limited smoking to the lobby and private offices of the George Howard Building, adherence to the rules has fallen off dramatically, said James Jones, assistant county administrator. Today, it is not unusual to see visitors and employes wandering the halls between offices with a lighted cigarette in hand.

Jones said that because efforts to accommodate both smokers and nonsmokers aren't working, "the fairest solution" is to outlaw tobacco completely and offer smoking cessation classes for workers. Employes reaction to the proposal is being sought.

Cultural Arts Center in the Works A multimillion-dollar cultural arts center, complete with concert hall and art studios, is on the drawing board for Howard Community College, if college officials can drum up enough support and money from the county government, the Columbia Association and business leaders.

Before ground-breaking starts on the proposed facility -- slated to cost $5 million to $20 million -- county officials must approve funds for a feasibility study, said college President Dwight Burrill. The arts center is one of several projects included in the college's proposed 1989 capital improvements budget, which also asks for $950,000 to build 559 more parking spaces. There are 800 parking spaces for 195 staff members and more than 3,900 part-time and credit students.

Planning Agency Reorganized County Planning and Zoning Director Uri P. Avin last week announced a major reorganization of his department designed to place greater emphasis on community planning, environmental protection and public input.

Among the changes Avin outlined to staff members in a memo was the creation of a third "division" that will be responsible for reviewing and approving development plans and monitoring building activity within given geographic areas.

"Context is becoming an increasingly important part of plan review," Deputy Planning Director David Fields said in explaining the rationale for the change. "Communities are interested in what's happening in their areas and they want their concerns addressed in the process."

Planners in the new Land Development and Community Planning division will be assigned to specific communities: David Holden and Joseph Rutter, for example, will work on the western part of the county, while Jean Lundin, Richard Blood and Michael Antol will look after Columbia. A statewide search is under way for a head of the new division.

The Land Development and Zoning division, which formerly had responsibility for reviewing plans, will devote more time toward revising the county's zoning regulations. John Musselman, the division's chief, said an important part of the revision will be to strengthen rules governing the removal of trees, the protection of wetlands and the impact of development on water tables. Any proposed changes will be subject to public hearings.

Under the reorganization, the Comprehensive and Transportation Planning Division will lose some of its general oversight function but remain responsible for revising the county's General Plan next year.

9 Officers, Firefighters Honored Frederick Chaney, recently appointed chief of police for Howard County, was the keynote speaker at the Howard County Chamber of Commerce's seventh annual Police and Fire Awards Program held at Turf Valley Country Club.

Among those honored for valor and service were Curtiss A. Spanos, police officer of the year; John B. Blum, career firefighter of the year; and Chief John Klein; volunteer firefighter of the year.

Awards also were given to John M. Sheehan of the Howard County Fire Department and Donald Cook, Roger C. Gleason, J.S. Hammond, John Parrott and Evonne Shives of the Howard County Police Department.From Staff Reports