St. Mary's County commissioners heard Tuesday from a committee that has been working for two years to plan for a new Naval Air Museum in Lexington Park.

The current museum, near Gate 2 at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, will be demolished early in 2001 when construction begins on the final segment of the Route 235 widening.

"The highway improvements underway on Maryland Route 235 have created a strategic moment of opportunity for us to replace the existing museum with a new world-class facility that will showcase the Navy's capabilities at Patuxent River and introduce visitors to the four centuries of American history that have unfolded on the shores of our community," said committee Chairman Keith Fairfax in remarks prepared for his briefing of county commissioners.

The Patuxent River Naval Air Museum Project Development Committee has been working since 1997 to develop a concept for the new museum. It will be built next to the new main entrance to the base at Gate 1.

Fairfax and Gary V. Hodge, the project director for the museum development effort, told county commissioners Tuesday that the new facility is being planned to combine a focus on education with interests in the region's cultural heritage and economic development goals.

The museum would present naval aviation as a revolutionary development in military science, look at the strategic role it has played in world affairs and consider its future. A visitors center would include an introduction to the history of the Southern Maryland region.

Planning for the new museum has been supported with funds pledged by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) and matched by St. Mary's County. The Navy initially agreed to allow the use of base land for the Route 235 widening to help minimize the impact of the road project on existing businesses along the highway. The Maryland Department of Transportation has pledged $2 million toward the cost of relocating the museum.

St. Mary's Will Have Smaller Classes

St. Mary's County public schools will receive $360,548 in federal funds for new teachers to help reduce class sizes under the fiscal 2000 Omnibus Appropriations Act signed by President Clinton last week.

In announcing the assistance, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Maryland schools need the money because the state's public school enrollment has increased by more than 20 percent in the last 10 years.

"Public school enrollments are at record levels and will require a large number of new teachers," he said. "This program is essential to making sure our children learn in the best environments."

The Class Size Reduction Initiative, proposed by Clinton and enacted by Congress last year, calls for the hiring of new teachers to reduce the average class size to 18 students per classroom. This year, Congress allocated $1.3 billion to hire 100,000 new elementary school teachers. About $20 million of that money is expected to go to Maryland, which would mean 544 new teachers could be hired throughout the state.

Once a Republican, Again a Republican

Calvert County Commissioner John Douglas Parran has given local Republicans an early holiday gift. He has restored the GOP majority on the Board of Commissioners.

Parran, who was elected as a Republican in 1998 and then changed his voter registration to unaffiliated last spring, has registered as a Republican yet again.

That means the board at least nominally has the 3 to 2 GOP edge that the party faithful celebrated a year ago as a sea change in Calvert politics. The Republican majority follows a half-century of Democratic control on the board. Parran (R-At Large), Commissioners President Linda L. Kelley (Owings) and Commissioner David F. Hale (Owings) make up that majority. Democrats on the board are Commissioners Patrick M. Buehler (St. Leonard) and Barbara A. Stinnett (At Large).

A New Look for Calvert Democrats

Speaking of political shake-ups, the Calvert County Democratic Club has sworn in a new leadership team.

Restaurateur John Toohey, also a member of the local Democratic Central Committee, took over as president of the club a week ago. Toohey said Calvert Democrats expect to make a contribution to the party's cause in the 2000 presidential year. "Beyond that," he said, "united Democrats are going to sweep the local elections in 2002."

Hoyer, in Tune With the Times

It may be time to check out the record collection of Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). Last month the 5th District congressman introduced legislation to preserve American musical recordings.

Whether the sound is jazz, Motown, country or rock-and-roll, Hoyer declared in announcing his support, "American music has had a profound effect on popular culture worldwide."

The legislation would create a National Recording Registry to maintain and preserve recordings deemed culturally, aesthetically or historically significant. Each year up to 25 recordings could be added to the registry, in a process similar to one already operating for films.

A board of music industry professionals would make the selections, so Hoyer won't have to reveal whether his preferences run to Elvis or the Temptations.