Charter Report Deadline May Be Tough To Meet, Harried Board Reports

December 18, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

Carroll charter board members say writing a thoughtful document proposing changes in the commission form of government in time for November's election could be an unrealistic goal, especially if the board is challenged in the March primary election.

At Saturday's inaugural work session, board members said they will strive to meet the date advocated by the Carroll Republican Central Committee and County Commissioner President Donald I. Dell.

But that consideration should not compromise the effort to research other government systems, gather public input, debate issues, educate voters and craft a charter that would be in the evolving county'sbest interest, say board members.

The November date has been recommended to save money -- the estimated $30,000 to $55,000 that a special charter ballot would cost -- and because a higher voter turnout would be expected for a presidential election.

"I'm for guarding against waste, but if we don't write a good charter, the savings are ridiculous to be considered," said C. William Knill, a Mount Airy farmer and appointed board member.

A charter provides more authority tocounty governments than they have under the commission form. It allows local laws to be enacted by the county's elected officials, ratherthan through the General Assembly, which meets for three months eachyear.

It could include a county executive and a county council, separating the administrative and legislative functions; retain a board of commissioners that fulfills both functions; or take another form. Representatives could be elected by district.

Proponents of charter say the part-time commissioners government has become inefficientand unresponsive to increased demands, while opponents claim charterwill increase bureaucracy and cost more.

The five Democrats and four Republicans, appointed to the charter board Nov. 1 by the commissioners, say it would be difficult to complete their work before a series of deadlines and get the measure put on the November ballot.

Nine Republicans have organized as potential charter board candidates.If they collect about 1,650 verified petition signatures by Dec. 31,a March 3 primary election runoff will be required. Current board members are concerned that much of their work could be wasted over the next three months if slate candidates with opposing viewpoints supplant some or all of the appointees.

Upheaval at the polls in March would make completing the charter in time for the November ballot evenmore unlikely, they say.

But potential candidate Joseph M. Getty,the Republican Central Committee chairman, said the board could finish its work in time for the November election regardless of whether new members are elected.

"It's a tight time frame, but I don't think it's inconceivable," he said.

The potential candidates have collected more than 1,000 signatures, he said.

Board member Charles Cull expressed concern that an expected state referendum on abortion would overshadow all other issues on the 1992 ballot.

Maryland law requires the charter board to write the document within one year of its appointment or of the charter board election. Between 60 and 120 days must be allowed before an election for publication of the documentand a campaign to educate voters on the issue. Thus, the document must be completed by early September to make the November ballot.

Inother business, the board:

* Elected Democrat Walter C. Bay of Westminster, a University of Maryland Extension Service agent, and Republican Jon R. Buck of Sykesville, an engineer, as co-chairmen; and Democrat Barbara S. F. Pease of Westminster, a bank senior vice president and Carroll Chamber of Commerce board member, as secretary.

* Decided to meet from 7 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday, starting next year, atlocations to be determined around the county. All meetings are open to the public. Several public hearings also will be scheduled.

* Considered employing the University of Maryland's Institute for Governmental Service, which has helped other counties draft charters. The cost is $2,000 upfront and an estimated $2,000 in additional expenses,Bay said..

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