SYKESVILLE — Now here's an unusual predicament for the cash-strapped Carroll Department of Public Works: Director John T. "Jack" Sterling Jr. and his staff have more than $450,000 to spend on the resurfacing of a country road just outside of town.
Thing is, because of an argument over12-inch tree saplings, they haven't been able to spend it for months.
A half-mile section of Linton Road -- itself a 1 1/4-mile thoroughfare running between Liberty Road and Bartholow Road -- remains a gravel country lane.
Since last year, the county has wanted to bringthat section of Linton Road up to county standards, replete with macadam, lane markings, drainage ditches and curbs.
But to some neighbors, removal of the gravel and hundreds of mature trees amounts to an unacceptable change in the landscape.
"I don't want to go to court," said Roy K. Wadsworth who lives in the 5200 block, right in the heart of the proposed resurfacing. "But I would like to see a change in the slope, and would like to see the county plant something other than 12-inch saplings."
When the county -- or anyone, for that matter -- builds roads, it needs to make slopes, landscaping and pavement width conform with state and county standards. Wadsworth and some of his neighbors, however, believe the proposed new roadway could cause more runoff.
"I feel the way the land is sloped now is sufficient," he said. "They will make the road steeper when they pave it."
Some 2.8-acres of land on his and three other people's properties areneeded to complete the land acquisition phase of the $450,000 project.
But while the county is ready, willing and able to spend money on this project -- $35,000 of it is earmarked for land acquisition --last-minute land snags aren't at all unusual, said Kenneth Baker, the county's land acquisition chief.
"It's not uncommon for some people to have objections," he said. "And it really doesn't have much todo with the type or amount of land you're buying. People tend to object to the change."
Indeed, road improvement projects tend to bring residents out of their homes and into public meetings, a step required of all major road improvements.
Earlier this year, close to 300 Eldersburg residents crammed the Liberty High School cafeteria to protest improvements made to Mineral Hill Road at the intersection of Conan Doyle Way. And weeks before that January meeting, close to 40 people showed up at Charles Carroll Elementary School in Silver Run toprotest the resurfacing of 2.6 miles of Arters Mill Road between Mayberry Road and Blacks Schoolhouse Road. There, residents derailed the$1.5 million project for an indefinite period, making similar complaints to the ones on Linton Road.
And while he said Arters Mill probably will be scrapped as long residents protest, Sterling said the Linton Road project is one that the county will do. He said he doesn'tlike the idea of having a stretch of unpaved county-maintained roadway sandwiched between two paved sections, as is the case on Linton Road.
"My feeling is this road needs to be done," he said. "We're trying to negotiate with the property owners right now."
Wadsworth has met with the Carroll Commissioners, who have directed the county engineering department to work out road design options. Baker predicted negotiations will wrap up within a matter of weeks.
The project is expected to take about a year to complete; the county has been trying to purchase the necessary pieces of property for rights of way and easements for a little more than a year now.
Staff writer Ellie Baublitz contributed to this story.