Harford County gave away cute little mallard duck stickers. Baltimore County gave away golf balls. Howard handed out packets of wildflower seeds, and Montgomery offered nylon tote bags.
There were goodies galore last weekend at the annual exhibit of the Maryland Association of Counties conference in Ocean City -- except at the Anne Arundeltable, where County Executive Robert R. Neall's penny-pinching policies were the rule of the day.
Along with Baltimore City, Anne Arundel was the only jurisdictionthat didn't offer freebies, said Louise Hayman, Neall's press secretary.
"We were like a sore thumb compared to the other counties," said County Councilman George Bachman, D-Linthicum. "I don't think toomany people were stopping at our booth."
Given the tough economictimes, Neall did the right thing, Bachman said. "We're asking every department head to cut back. We shouldn't have gone in for anything like that this year."
Still, Bachman said he made the rounds and helped himself to some of the hotter items offered by less frugal counties and agencies. Like the Department of Natural Resources yardstick with leather handle -- "That was the big thing," Bachman said. "And Igot a few of those little stick-on things."
The MACo exhibit originally was designed as a way for county officials to learn about other parts of Maryland, but over the years it has escalated in expense and extravagance, Hayman said.
Last year, the Lighthizer administration spent $11,793 on a re-creation of the B & A Hiker-Biker Trail, including $5,175 for pink shoelaces to give away. This year, the county spent less than $2,000 for an archaeological display which did not include freebies.
"I think the whole exhibit process is stupid," Hayman said. "It's trick or treat for adults. You see these grown people going from booth to booth with plastic bags to collect junk.
"They're really blatant about it, too. They come up and say, 'What are you giving away?' They don't even look at the exhibit."