Problems Persist, But Lippy Leaves A Legacy

November 28, 1990|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

MANCHESTER - The sewage treatment plant project isn't finished, the Route 30 bypass hasn't yet made it to the planning stage and the town is looking for a new police chief.

And Elmer C. Lippy Jr. is just hours away from presiding over his final Town Council meeting as mayor tonight, when he will face for the last time many of the same issues he has tackled in the nearly four years he has been the town's $1,200-a-year chief executive.

Lippy, 70, is credited with providing impetus for the town's sewage treatment plant project, which includes adding new pumping stations and doubling the plant's 250,000-gallon-a-day capacity.

While the long-delayed plant expansion essentially was complete in late August, the facility still is not operating. The project's cost has risen from $7 million to more than $11 million, and no one can say exactly when it will be finished.

Nonetheless, progress on the town's biggest-ever public works project tops Lippy's personal list of accomplishments.

"It doesn't take much to know that the sewage treatment project has been the biggest thing for me since Day One," he said. "Nothing has taken a greater portion of my time, has been more involved or even come close."

Sewage treatment is just one of the concerns Lippy in all likelihood will leave to Councilman Earl A. J. "Tim" Warehime Jr., a second cousin and the man he defeated by a 3-to-1 margin in the 1987 mayoral election. The 45-year-old Colonial Pipeline technician is expected to be named Lippy's interim successor at tonight's council meeting.

Just as when Lippy took office in May 1987, Warehime faces a town without a police chief, any definitive answers on a much-sought-after bypass to busy Route 30 or a solid master plan for growth.

But Lippy -- whose political career began two months after retiring from Lever Bros. in 1985 -- leaves a mark on this 225-year-old town that some say will be hard to erase.

"He has done a wonderful job for Manchester," said Charlotte B. Collett, the town's unofficial historian and chairwoman of the Planning and Zoning Commission from 1975 to 1990. "I think Elmer is a very conscientious person, a good listener and a man very dedicated to this town."

In office barely four months, Lippy made county headlines in September 1987 when he denounced a Ku Klux Klan rally in town.

While part of his message defended the group's right to speak out, he said, "I have now decided that the time is right to stand up and be counted, since silence would be cowardly and imply tacit approval of this group."

Lippy recalled the speech as "the most memorable event in my four years as mayor."

Ever since, he has made a habit of speaking his mind. His insistence on a generally open government -- despite his being the first mayor in Carroll County to direct a change in the town's charter that permits closed meetings -- has angered Town Council members, especially during budget or personnel discussions.

However, not all Manchester government business has taken place in open meetings. The revolving door at the town police station -- which has seen three chiefs in four years -- often has been discussed in executive session. In the current search for a replacement for Chief Earl Isennock, none of the details are being made public. Discussion of his resignation took place in executive session.

The Town Council is expected to name a replacement by the end of next month.

Lippy's dedication to the mayor's office -- often in the form of 40-hour weeks at the town's Memorial Building -- has prompted discussion of hiring a full-time town manager, similar to ones in Hampstead or Sykesville. Such a move, Lippy and others say, would allow the town to pay more attention to the problems with the bypass, Police Department, treatment plant or master plan.

John A. Riley, a Manchester town councilman and town manager for Hampstead, advocates hiring a manager.

"It just makes sense," he said.

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