Weed Control One Of Eight Initiatives Asked Of Legislature

Delegate Advocates Charter System Change

December 15, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

The county commissioners have asked Carroll's state legislators to introduce eight initiatives in the General Assembly.

Two were deemed so minor by one lawmaker that he advocated a change to charter government so the laws could be enacted locally.

The session starts Jan. 8.

Several of the initiatives presented Thursday could spark debate. One would allow prisoners to perform jobs for the county other than road maintenance, provided the inmates "can be trusted."

Another would require real estate agents and home sellers to notify prospective property purchasers of existing or future mining within a half-mile. County planners proposed the legislation to complement a mining plan being developed.

"Disclosure is important to protect the seller and the purchaser," said Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore.

But Commissioner President Donald I.Dell said he is concerned such a law would place undue burden on an "unsuspecting" property owner selling his home.

Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, implied that two other less-weightyproposals aren't worth state legislators' time. One would allow the county to continue investigating complaints about uncontrolled weed growth, a function no longer performed by the county Health Departmentbecause of budget cuts.

The other would prohibit giving away animals as prizes at events such as carnivals, stripping the state Secretary of Agriculture's authority to allow such giveaways in Carroll.

"If you had charter government you wouldn't need 188 people (state delegates and senators) to approve weed control that's best done at the local level and the animals bill," said LaMotte, who previously hasadvocated charter for Carroll.

A grass-roots effort to write a charter as a referendum for county voters is under way. A charter confers more authority to county governments.

Only three of the six delegation members -- LaMotte, Haines and Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll -- attended the meeting with the commissioners.

The other three had scheduling conflicts.

Other legislation requested includes bills that would:

* Authorize the county to borrow a specified amount through a bond issue to finance public facility projects, including roads, landfill expansion and construction of Carroll Community College.

Budget Director Steven D. Powell said the request likely will be less than $15 million, a decrease from requests of more than $20 million each of the past two years.

"The economy is static and our revenues are static, so the margin for how much we can borrowhas closed," said Powell.

"When the economy grows, our ability toassume debt will grow as well."

* Allow the county to establish areserve account to plug holes in the budget during severe economic times.

The account would be restricted to 5 percent or less of the operating budget each year.

If such a balance existed for fiscal 1992, the ceiling would have

been about $5.7 million.

"If we hadthis fund now, the county would have been in much better shape" to weather the recession and state cutbacks, said Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman, adding it would take several years to accumulate a balance. "It's a wise financial move."

* Authorize the county to borrow money to lend to the 14 volunteer fire companies for equipment purchases,building improvements and other expenses. The county has $300,000 left to lend out of $6 million in previous authorizations, said Curfman.

"We've never had a problem with fire companies making payments,"he said.

* Enact a 3 percent hotel rental tax, which could generate an estimated $60,000 to $80,000 annually. Revenue would be used topromote economic development and tourism. Most Maryland jurisdictions have a hotel tax.

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