Town/county Efforts Paying Off

9 Months Into Process, Planning Is Benefiting County Residents

September 08, 1991|By Micki Smith Guest columnist

Carroll's elected officials will gather Saturday for the second Town/County Partnership meeting -- nine months after the first session.

Since December, participants have been holding issue-oriented, small group meetings. The task: to address recommendations made by the county's Strategic Planning Workgroup in 1990.

Planning -- that is, Planning with a capital P -- is a multifaceted, focused process that evolves over time.

Comprehensive planningdeals with the overall picture of a given jurisdiction. Strategic planning takes specific issues, researches the components and designs actions that will benefit the community.

In either case, the process can be lengthy. Although those who are working on the tasks have a fair understanding of the progress, the public, not privy to the myriad details, may think the project lost in a thick, green file somewhere.

This file is not dead, but hard at work. A brief peek at its contents may help Carroll citizens better understand why the upcoming Town/County Partnership meeting is important to them.

A chronology:

In August 1988, then-Commissioners John L. Armacost, Julia W. Gouge and J. Jeffrey Griffith assembled citizens from the business, banking and educational communities and from emergency services and law enforcement agencies.

Together with the eight mayors, six delegation members and the Planning Commission, they formed the Strategic Planning Workgroup, about 40 persons in all. Their task was to identify priority issues for the county as it experiences growth.

Subsequently, six subcommittees were formed to address the identified priorities: educational facilities, the future of agriculture, emergency services, law enforcement, infrastructure and affordable housing.

Additional citizens volunteered their expertise and spent almost nine months studying information and formulating recommendations. In the spring of 1990, reports were presented to the parent Strategic Planning Workgroup.

The commissioners and staff met in several daylong sessions to study the reports. Some recommendations were enacted quickly.

However, many of the proposed recommendations would have great impact on Carroll's eight towns. To act without their input and cooperation would be inappropriate and futile.

On Dec. 3, 1990, the Town/County Partnership (a consortium of local elected officials) met to begin creating cooperative-action strategies for the Strategic PlanningWorkgroup recommendations. The key word here is action; how to accomplish the recommendations.

The original Strategic Planning Workgroup will meet next month to consider possible new priority issues for the ongoing planning process.

The work group has requested an interim report from the Town/County Partnership, due in early January. InApril 1992, the partnership is to make a comprehensive report to thework group and its subcommittees.

Three years, more than 4,600 volunteer person-hours of dedicated hard work have been given for us, Carroll's citizens.

How do we benefit from such commitment? We gaina variety of knowledge and perspectives on very complex problems. Proactive solutions are developed instead of Band-Aid, quick fixes.

A sturdy, cooperative base is established that will support successful enactment.

Neighbors sit down with neighbors to build the best possible community for all of us -- grass-roots democracy at work.

Below is a partial list of recommendations that have been enacted since the initial meeting of Aug. 30, 1988:

* Commissioners agreed tolocally fund construction or renovation of five schools.

* Additional grants analyst were hired to secure more grants.

* Educational seminars for landlords instituted.

* County Bureau of Housing and Community Development qualified to administer state's revolving fund.

* Day-care coordinator hired to facilitate adequate-quality child care.

* Ongoing partnerships established with local financial institution.

* Additional transportation planner hired, transportation study completed, Transportation Master Plan in progress.

* Water Conservation Plan adopted and implemented.

* Agribusiness member appointed to Economic Development Commission.

* Aggressive lobbying of state for agriculture preservation funds.

* Zoning ordinances reviewed and updated.

* Regular staff meetings initiated with municipal and county water and sewer operators.

* Water and sewer planner hired.

* Applied and received grants for small-community water systems.

Recommended commissions and studies that have been put into effect:

* Commissioners contracted study of Emergency Communications System.

* Community Action Agency approved.

* Adequate Facilities Commission appointed.

* Agriculture Advisory Committee appointed.

Micki Smith is deputy director of administrative services for the county.

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