Executive Hopefuls Offer Similar Goals, Differ On Fees

November 04, 1990|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

County executive candidates Geoffrey R. Close and Eileen M. Rehrmann have many of the same priorities for the county if they are elected on Tuesday.

High on the list for both: moving ahead with needed water, sewer and road improvements, establishing more recycling centers, preparing an adequate public facilities law, and attracting more industry.

But one major distinction between the candidates is the steps they would take to raise money to pay for those and other projects the candidates advocate.

Rehrmann, the Democratic candidate, says she'd raise the needed capital by charging developers impact fees, seeking increased state aid, and returning to the bond market.

Close, the GOP candidate, says he'd raise the money by a return to the bond market for some projects and tight controls on government spending. He opposes impact fees.

Rehrmann, advocates charging impact fees of at least $2,000 per unit built to offset the costs for expanded or upgraded public services, such as water and sewer lines.

"There were about 2,000 units built last year. If there had been a $2,000 impact fee on each home, it would have generated $4 million -- more than enough for one school," said Rehrmann, 47, a two-term state delegate who lives in Bel Air.

"It was a missed opportunity. Impact fees don't manage growth, but they do help finance it," she said.

To manage growth, Rehrmann said she would support an adequate public facilities law which would restrict development in areas of the county where public facilities would not support the increased population demands.

She said another way she would increase the county's revenue would be to attract high-tech industry to the county. That, she argues, would help relieve the tax burden on homeowners, who make up the majority of Harford's tax base. Rehrmann has been working with a task force to build a Higher Education and Applied Technology Center (HEAT) near Aberdeen to accomplish that goal.

HEAT is supposed to be tied to Aberdeen Proving Ground's scientific community and offer educational opportunities in a campus-like setting.

Rehrmann said she would also turn to the bond to borrow money for some capital projects, particularly schools.

Close, 42, who lives near Bel Air, said if elected he would not bank on the HEAT project to attract high-tech industry to the county quickly.

Close, a real estate agent, opposes impact fees, saying they would drive property values down. He said he believes adequate public facilities laws would work better to be sure demands for services are met.

To pay for programs, Close says he would review the county's current expenses to see where cuts could be made, and return to the bond market for a few specific projects, most notably schools.

He would also see to attract "clean" industry, but did not spell out how he would accomplish that goal.

He argues his experience as a former Bel Air commissioner and mayor working for the revitalization of Bel Air makes him the right man for that job.

Other major measures Close said he would work on if elected:

raising user fees by an unspecified amount for sewer and other services.

working on an agreement with Baltimore City to tap into the city's "big inch" water main which draws from the Susquehanna to increase the county's water supply.

creating a long-range plan for water and sewer line improvements.

tying social services funding to population increases.

working with the school superintendent on the school budget so that the county executive would have more time to review Board of Education figures before sending the budget to the County Council.

Other major measures Rehrmann said she would work on if elected:

increasing hook-up fees to help pay for improved water and sewer service.

working with the school superintendent to secure state approval and state dollars for new schools, including two new schools in fiscal 1994-1995.

earmarking some industry property tax dollars for the education budget to be used specifically to recruit and retain teachers.

preparing a five-year budget for capital improvements that takes inflation into account, instead of the current 10-year plan.

establishing more non-profit recycling centers along U.S. 40 using the Susquehannock Environmental Center, a non-profit recycling center in Bel Air, as a model.

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