Economic development officials, political activists and residents disagreed at a hearing Wednesday on whether Carroll should continue its28-year affiliation with the Baltimore region's premier planning agency.
Several speakers, including Carroll's first economic development director, Richard W. Story, stressed that the county is linked tothe metropolitan area geographically, economically and culturally and that it benefits in many ways from membership in the Baltimore Regional Council of Governments.
Others contended that Carroll is overshadowed by larger jurisdictions belonging to the council, expressed concern that the agency could diminish authority of local government and recommended closer ties with Western Maryland counties. They questioned whether annual dues -- averaging about $50,000 -- are well-spent.
The committee appointed by the Carroll commissioners to study involvement in the council and recommend on future participation sponsored the hearing, which attracted about 20 people.
County employees, primarily planners and social service providers, have been "overwhelmingly positive" about the county's work with the council, Chairman Joseph Getty said.
Opinions expressed by private individuals Wednesday were "a good representation of both sides," he said. "It gives us perspective."
The panel plans to complete its report within six weeks. Even if
the commissioners vote to withdraw from the council, the county needs GeneralAssembly approval.
Commissioner Julia W. Gouge, vice chairwoman on the council's board, has advocated continued participation. Commissioner President Donald I. Dell has described the council as an unnecessary "layer of bureaucracy" but has said he will consider the committee's recommendation. Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy has said he is "neutral."
The regional council is an advisory organization that develops planning policies, provides technical assistance, administers programs, channels federal money to local jurisdictions and provides a forum for elected officials. It focuses on environmental, transportation, housing and economic development issues and receives federal housing subsidies for distribution.
Members include Carroll, Baltimore, Howard, Harford and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore. Each jurisdiction has an equal vote in board decisions.
Story, who has worked for several Baltimore economic development organizations, said membership in the council is "a real bargain."
"We can't hire sufficient staff to address the same problems our neighbors are trying to solve," he said. "We should solve them concurrently."
Fred Esbrandt, a Sykesville resident and former Carroll Economic Development Commission chairman, said participation could help boost Carroll's lagging commercial and industrial development.
"Things manufactured in Carroll go out through the port of Baltimore, not the port of Frederick,"he said.
An opponent, Charles F. Fehle of Millers, said he believed the regional agency represents an attempt to usurp authority from local government.
BRCOG transportation planner Charles Goodman responded that the agency is not a "regional government" but advises andassists counties upon request.
Donald Frazier, an officer of the Tri-District Republican Club, said Carroll lacks political "clout" inthe council and could benefit more through Western Maryland affiliations. He contended that demographic information supplied by the council has shortchanged Carroll and that county staff could do a better job making population and other projections.
Goodman said that the council encourages forecasting from local governments but that "regional composites" must be developed to plan for transportation systems,compliance with the Clean Air Act and other complex issues transcending county borders.