Rescue Workers in La.

Twenty members of Howard County's Department of Fire and Rescue Services were in the New Orleans area this week to help with search and rescue efforts for Hurricane Katrina survivors.

The firefighters left Sunday in a convoy of trucks and trailers that included Baltimore workers, who will assist with rescue operations, security and debris removal. The City of Baltimore organized the contingent in response to a request from the State of Louisiana for help.

After a 29-hour drive, the convoy arrived Monday in Gretna, a city of 17,500 residents that is situated on the western bank of the Mississippi River just across from New Orleans. The Howard firefighters, with a father and son among their ranks, will be based in Gretna for at least two weeks.

Other Maryland jurisdictions, including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties, are responding to assist Gretna, the county seat of Jefferson Parish, said Joseph A. Herr, chief of the Howard Department of Fire and Rescue Services.

Hurricane Relief Efforts

Among local and state efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina is a blood drive, sponsored by the Columbia Association and villages of Columbia, to be held from 2:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Inova Blood Donor Services will set up a mobile donor station at Historic Oakland at the Town Center Community Association, 5430 Vantage Point Rd., Columbia. To schedule an appointment to donate blood, call 410-730-4744.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is organizing a supply drive. People can drop off nonperishable food and critical supplies at five locations across the state, including the Maryland House of Correction off Route 175 in Jessup, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The items requested are diapers, baby care items such as blankets and wipes, bottled water, first aid supplies, over-the-counter medicines, personal hygiene items, blankets, batteries, paper goods and plastic utensils.

Also, the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County has updated its Web site to provide more information to the community about how to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. To find out more, visit or call 410-715-3172.

Altercation at Gas Station

An altercation Friday afternoon at a Howard gas station sent a Columbia man to the hospital and led to the arrest of another resident.

As people scrambled to fill their tanks amid rumors that stations were shutting down, a line of vehicles formed at a Mobil station on Dobbin Center Way. Police said a pickup truck driven by Heraldo Vincente Hernandez, 24, of Columbia apparently pulled in front of a vehicle driven by Mike Hyong Kwak, 66, of Columbia. Kwak approached the pickup truck to speak to the driver. The pickup truck sped through the parking lot, with Kwak hanging onto the driver's door. The truck ran a red light trying to make a left turn onto Dobbin Road, struck another vehicle and threw Kwak onto the road before fleeing the scene.

Kwak was flown by emergency helicopter to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, where he was treated and released, said Jennifer Reidy, Howard police spokesperson. Hernandez, who was living at a Columbia motel, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, failure to remain at the scene of a collision and other traffic counts, police said.

Council Mulls Changes

The Columbia Council is scheduled to consider a resolution tonight that effectively would end the council's existence. The resolution is to be introduced at the 7:30 p.m. meeting at Columbia Association headquarters, 10221 Wincopin Cir., by Town Center representative Jud Malone. He says that the charter creating the Columbia Association provides little role for the council beyond an advisory body and that it has "usurped authority it did not have."

The measure will be debated by the 10-member council over several weeks before a vote. The council, which also meets as the board of directors of the Columbia Association, has been debating a series of changes to the structure of the homeowners association, which provides services and amenities to Columbia's 97,000 residents.

Malone said village elections of members of the board of directors would ensure a democratic process. A newly formed citizens group has questioned why the move to eliminate the council is being pursued separately from other changes.

Town Center Workshops

An intensive series of community workshops that are expected to help produce a final design for Columbia's Town Center is scheduled for Oct. 15-22 at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia.

Design Collective Inc., a Baltimore firm, is scheduled to lead the charrette, at which county residents are invited to discuss land use for the 570 acres that make up the core of Columbia's Town Center. The area includes the Mall in Columbia and the commercial and residential areas near Lake Kittamaqundi. Central to the charrette's mission is the use of a 51.7-acre tract next to Merriweather Post Pavilion known as the Crescent property. It is the largest parcel of undeveloped land in Town Center.

Meeting on Turf Valley

The Howard County Planning Board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. next Thursday in the Ellicott Room of the George Howard Building, 3430 Courthouse Dr., Ellicott City, to discuss a proposal to expand the residential and commercial areas of Turf Valley community in western Howard.

The meeting is the latest in a series of hearings, with one drawing more than 200 people, that has been held about the proposed expansion. A coalition of residents has asked county officials to move the meeting to the Banneker Room at the office building to accommodate more people

Free Book Covers

Glossy book covers portraying scenes in western Howard are available free to elementary school students at the Howard County Economic Development Authority offices, 6751 Columbia Gateway Dr., Suite 500, Columbia. The covers were designed by third-graders at Rockburn Elementary School in Elkridge. For more information, call 410-313-6500.