Legislative Requests Draw Fire At Hearing

Residents Reject Proposed Spending

January 08, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — In no uncertain terms, Carroll residents told county legislators last weekend that they resent government interference in "private" matters and don't want to pay for programs or laws they consider unnecessary.

About 75 residents -- the largest and most vocal crowd in recent years -- met with the county delegation Saturday in the annual pre-General Assembly public hearing to discuss an agenda for the three-month session that begins today in Annapolis.

Armed with skepticism, they questioned and generally opposed -- strongly, in several cases -- nearly all of the eight legislative requests submitted by the county commissioners.

They expressed distrust of government, especially its spending intentions. Their message was noted by the delegation.

"What I heard will play a part in my views" as the Carroll delegation debates which proposals to sponsor or reject, said Delegate Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard.

Because Carroll does not have home rule, certain county laws must be enacted by the General Assembly.

Those attending the meeting "don't wantto see government get any bigger," said Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore.

The proposal prompting the most opposition would require home sellers to notify prospective purchasers that the property under consideration is within a half-mile of planned or existing mining. It would affect about 900 property owners in New Windsor, UnionBridge and Wakefield Valley and is an outgrowth of a county mining plan being developed.

Residents of the areas charged that such a requirement could lower their property values and make it more difficult to sell. They also said it would be unfair to single them out from other property owners living next to other "obnoxious" land uses.

"It's the wrong way to go about correcting a situation where things were done wrong in the past," said Linda Moreau of New Windsor, addingthat she was not told of mining plans when she moved to Carroll lastMarch.

"Allow me this one freedom left. Many have been taken away," said Union Bridge resident Warren Shirey, who is trying to sell a farm near Lehigh Portland Cement Co.'s mining operation. "Let me findone sucker."

However, several residents living outside the regionsaid the information should not be concealed.

Several residents opposed a proposal to create a county reserve fund -- not to exceed 5 percent of the operating budget -- to be used in economic emergencies. They said they feared it would be a "slush" fund, concealed from the public and spent needlessly. Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, said controls would have to be included in the law to prevent misuse.

A proposal advocated by the Carroll Humane Society that would prohibit giving away animals, from goldfish to horses, as prizes at events such as fire company carnivals also drew criticism.

"This can be handled through self-regulation. It doesn't need to go to Annapolis," said William Gabeler, second vice president of the Carroll Volunteer Firemen's Association. "If the Humane Society has a problem with our goldfish, they can come to us and we can work it out."

Even an annual bond authorization request that usually attracts little notice and a seemingly innocuous proposal to control weed growth drew opposition.

Several residents, concerned about government spending, recommended that the commissioners submit separate bond authorizationbills for each public facility project for which they want to borrowmoney. Currently, roads, landfills and the new Carroll Community College are packaged as one proposal for which a borrowing ceiling will be determined. Residents warned against borrowing money for communitycollege projects.

"We're borrowing too much money," said Westminster resident Ralph Shipley. "Years ago, we used to pay as we went. Carroll County was a little slower, but we got it done."

Westminsterresident Jim Langdon countered that it is wise to borrow money for long-term projects -- the same as an individual would for a house -- especially now, when interest rates are favorable.

Delegate RichardN. Dixon, D-Carroll, agreed that Carroll "can't operate on a pay-as-you-go basis," as evidenced by the pressing need for new schools.

Others criticized a proposal to implement a 3 percent hotel tax in Carroll, saying it would burden businesses and customers.

"It's the wrong way to promote business," said Westminster resident Romeo Valianti.

Even though they say they oppose any new taxes, Carroll legislators say they might support the hotel tax because it would apply to"outsiders."

Residents generally supported an initiative that would put County Detention Center inmates to work on public projects butobjected to paying them more than token wages.

COMMISSIONERS' REQUESTED BILLS

* Bond Authorization: Enables county to borrow specifiedamount through bond market, projected between $10 million and $15 million, for public facility construction projects.

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