Two years ago, the county had no citizens board keeping watch on theenvironment.
Now it has two.
But there are plenty of issues to go around for both the Recycling Committee and the more comprehensive Environmental Affairs AdvisoryBoard, said James E. Slater Jr., director of the county Department of Natural Resources Protection.
Hearty agreement came from Taneytown's James L. Thomas, chairman of the Recycling Committee, which oversees solid waste and recycling.
"I think the Environmental AffairsBoard . . . could have too much work."
Commissioners formed the Recycling Committee in 1989 to develop a four-year plan to meet the state's mandate of recycling 15 percent of the county's waste by January 1994. A plan was submitted last summer, but is still evolving.
Late last year, members of the Recycling Committee began to take a more active role, rather than letting county staff set the agenda for meetings and run them. Now, Thomas chairs the meetings, and members askmore questions of the staff. Membersrepresent the trash industry, business, government and education.
One of their first initiatives was to ask the commissioners to change the panel's name to the Solid Waste Management Committee to reflect a more comprehensive goal that includes educating the public to create less waste.
The watchdog role more residents are taking toward the county's environment could lead to more of them bringing their concerns to members of these boards.
Slater formed the Environmental Affairs board last fall, and theCounty Commissioners appointed the members who represent conservation groups, business, education, development, agriculture and other areas. J. Paul Hering, a retired farmer who lives on Beggs Road north ofWestminster, serves as chairman.
The board advises Slater on suchissues as new fees he proposes for developers, and upcoming changes in solid waste and water management.
At Thursday's meeting, MonroeHaines of Geneva Drive in Westminster asked for the board's support in enforcing state cleanup and monitoring of the West Branch of the Patapsco River.
Sometimes members bring in issues they have heard while in their jobs or talking to friends and neighbors. A few months ago,
Gwenn Bockelmann, a Realtor, relayed concerns she heard aboutLehigh Portland Cement Co.'s smokestacks in Union Bridge.
The Recycling Committee wants the commissioners to appoint three more members -- one from the Environmental Affairs board, another from the Economic Development Council, and another from Carroll Earth Care, a grass-roots organization formed by volunteers who worked on the Earth Day celebration in 1990.
Thomas said the increased involvement from residents will mean striking a balance between crowding "too many cooksin the kitchen" and giving good input to the county staff.
"The staff says it wants feedback," he said, "but it will mean
they can't make decisions as quickly. I think it's an art to be able to do it right."
Thomas and fellow member Jennifer DeArmey, who is directorof the Farm Museum, said communication is the key to having the boards and government staff work harmoniously.
"I'm really excited," DeArmey said. "Our board is getting more effective and headed in the right direction."