Commissioners To Alter Revamped Government

February 26, 1992|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

After watching their remodeled government in action for eight months, the county commissioners say they expect to announce some retoolingof the new structure within two weeks.

Modifications will be few,say the commissioners. They added that they are generally pleased with the way county government is functioning since the reorganization last July.

"I don't see too many changes overall," said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy.

The most significant alterations would affect waste management and the county's environmental operations, which may be restored to a full-fledged department.

But even that change would be superficial because the functions would remain largely the same, the commissioners say.

"What's in a name? Well, a lot," Lippy said. "Ever since the reorganization was announced, there've been many constituents asking, 'Why did you downgrade the Environment Department?' "

Early last May, the commissioners announced the wide-ranging reorganization, aimed at making Carroll's government more efficient and less expensive. Although they're about two months late, the commissioners are conducting an evaluation of the new structure.

Several pressingissues -- including work on plans for countywide recycling and mineral mining -- have preoccupied the commissioners, delaying the review,said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge.

Over the past few weeks, the commissioners have been interviewing department heads, seeking feedbackon the operations of the new government.

Also, the AdministrativeCouncil, an 11-member internal panel composed mostly of department heads, is working on a comprehensive -- and anonymous -- report assessing the restructured government. The commissioners will review the study and make any revisions they deem fit.

The most likely change will involve the Office of Environmental Services, the commissioners say.

As part of the reorganization, the office was created by downgrading the Department of Natural Resource Protection. The department was partially dismantled, with solid waste and recycling programs shifted elsewhere.

The downgrading drew criticism from many environmentalists, some of whom feared it would diminish the county's environmental-protection efforts. Activists also worried that dividing functions -- particularly splitting recycling from other solid waste operations -- would hamper the development of an effective solid-waste management program.

"There was the idea that somehow we'd diminished our concern for environmental matters," Lippy said. "That wasn't the case."

Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said that despite the criticism, he thinks the new configuration of the environmental office is adequate. But he will not object to restoring its previous status.

"I think we did the right thing," Dell said. "But if Elmer and Julia feel we should change it back, I won't argue strongly against it."

Gouge said she's not yet convinced that restoring departmentalstatus to environmental operations is necessary. But she, along withLippy, supports consolidation of waste-management programs, parts ofwhich are handled by four departments.

The commissioners' decision-making process also needs retooling, Gouge said. She said she will suggest including more time to allow the commissioners to consult.

"We're simply not making progress on decisions on key things," she said.

The restructuring reduced the number of departments from 12 to eight and included three new departments: Citizens Services, General Services and Administrative Services.

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