Commissioner Lippy, one that didn't get away

July 08, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

With two-thirds of the county's executive and legislative branches visiting the Midwest until the end of the week, the one commissioner left behind is feeling a little more important.

"I am absolutely drunk with power," quipped Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy, the lone commissioner who chose not to attend this year's annual National Association of Counties meeting in Minneapolis.

While Mr. Lippy obviously knows he is virtually powerless to do anything of substance this week, he nonetheless will try to maintain a semblance of normalcy in the daily grindings of county government.

"I've still got meetings, and I've got a lot of reading to catch up on," he said yesterday. "I'll be keeping pretty busy."

Mr. Lippy chose not to attend the five-day convention because "I thought I'd save a little bit of money for the county by not going," he said. And while pointing out that he did not disapprove of Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Julia W. Gouge winging their way west this week, he did say such expenses are frivolous when the county government is scraping for every dollar.

"I'm not trying to stab my colleagues in the back," Mr. Lippy said. "But in times of economic crisis, you need to look at ways to cut spending. And the light at the end of the economic tunnel is looking mighty dim again this year."

The convention will cost county taxpayers close to $2,000, according to Carroll Comptroller Eugene Curfman.

And the cost of a week's delay in legislative and executive-branch decisions is incalculable.

For instance, Monday's commissioners' agenda included the adoption of the county's revised sediment control ordinance -- of interest to developers and homebuilders -- and the purchase of a piece of land near the airport.

Neither transaction transpired; while Mr. Dell was present at 225 N. Center St., Mr. Lippy was in a dentist's chair having a chipped tooth repaired and Mrs. Gouge was home packing for Minneapolis.

The agenda the rest of the week is quite bare, except for the occasional bid opening or public works meeting.

In defense of their trip, the two commissioners have said that such gatherings offer a wealth of information that can be used here.

This year's convention includes 60 workshops on topics such as health care, jails, solid waste and infrastructure, said Tracy Dove, a National Association of Counties spokeswoman.

In all, 5,000 elected county officials from 1,900 of the country's 3,110 counties are expected to attend, Ms. Dove said. The typical official will be spending close to $1,500 of public money to attend, bringing the total taxpayer tab to more than $7 million.

Carroll officials sat out last year's convention in Salt Lake City because they decided the cost was unjustifiable in light of dwindling state and county revenues and the lowering of funding for arts programs, social services and employee raises.

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