WESTMINSTER — The board writing a charter for Carroll government voted last night to meet twice weekly to maintain an "ambitious" schedule geared toward placing the question on November's ballot as a referendum.
The nine-member board has been meeting once a week for five months to workon the document, which, if approved by voters, would change Carroll's commissioner form of government. Charter board members also have been meeting every week in smaller subcommittees.
The charter would create a County Council, with at least some members elected by district. The board has decided to have an appointed manager, rather than an elected executive.
A charter would allow the county governing body to enact certain local laws. Currently, the Carroll commissioners can enact ordinances, but must go through the General Assembly to enact or modify laws for the county.
Several charter board members said the panel was slipping behind schedule and would not be able to finish writing the document in time to allow a sufficient review period for Carroll residents.
"The biggest mistakewe could make is to have this voted down because people didn't understand it, whether they wanted it or not," said Barbara S. F. Pease.
Pease advocated maintaining a 90-day period between completion of the charter and the November election to educate voters about proposedchanges in government.
The board plans to complete a first draft in time for a May 19 public hearing. Several other subsequent hearings will take place.
The board, which meets at the Ag Center, decided to meet on Sundays to quicken its pace.
Other board members cautioned against trying to complete the detail-oriented work too fast. The board has pledged to try to complete writing the constitution for the November election -- rather than having a special election -- to save money and because voter turnout typically is highest for a presidential election.
"I'm concerned we'll be making hasty decisions,"said Greg Pecoraro. "The hardest thing is coming up with a first draft. The initial impression of the first draft is an important one, and we shouldn't make hasty decisions."
The board last night discussed details of how to conduct the county budget process and other aspects of financing government under a charter. The board discussed possibly including provisions that would allow establishment of a property tax cap and creation of special taxing districts to spur economic development.
William Sraver, secretary-treasurer for the Committee for Charter Government who has observed most meetings, said the boardcould save time and receive valuable advice by contracting with the University of Maryland's Institute for Governmental Service.
The county commissioners rejected the board's request for IGS assistance, estimated at $4,000.
The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for2 p.m. Sunday at an undetermined location.