How would you like a 50 percent pay increase?

That's the approximate planned rate increase future appointed members of the planning board would see under legislation that was introduced this week by County Council Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville), at the request of County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), who makes the appointments.

County planning board members also serve on the bi-county Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Members -- except the chairman, who is a full-time employee -- receive $5,600 each annually for their service to the commission. They also get $12,900 a year for their work on the planning board. Under the legislation, new appointees would receive $19,400 for their service on the planning board, raising their total compensation to $25,000 a year.

Dean said the legislation, which the state allowed the county to pass a couple of years ago, should have been considered earlier.

"It was supposed to come before this body last year, but somehow it fell through the cracks," Dean said. "This does not automatically give anyone a raise, as I understand. . . . When new members are appointed they will receive the new amount."

The legislation still faces a final vote, which is likely to take place before the end of November.

Council member Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel) abstained from the vote. Council members Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) and David Harrington (D-Cheverly) voted for the measure, but said they disagreed with the process. The bill was considered by the council's committee of the whole, instead of the council's planning committee, which Exum heads.

"My unreadiness is about the timetable and why it didn't wash through the regular process," Harrington said.

Planning Board members meet once a week to discuss land-use projects in the county. They meet once a month to consider issues involving Prince George's and Montgomery counties with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Before voting, council member Thomas R. Hendershot (D-New Carrollton) had a few questions about the change, but in the end was impressed by the jump.

"Good raise," he said before casting his vote.

Wary of Flu Fallout

As county executive, Johnson was supposed to be heading to Asia this week to help promote international trade with Prince George's during a 10-day planned visit.

But one thing got in the way: the bird flu.

Concerned about the possibility of being unexpectedly quarantined during the trade mission, Johnson decided last week to postpone the trip, possibly until spring.

It appears Johnson isn't the only county official worried about the flu that has killed millions of birds and dozens of people in Asia.

Dean, the council chairman, said this week that he has instructed council member Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills), chairman of the council's health committee, to begin looking into the county's readiness for "the possible pandemic."

"I think we need to look at how we would handle employees who might get sick," Dean said.

There have been no reports of the bird flu in the United States. Recently, however, signs of the flu have emerged in Europe.