WESTMINSTER -- The committee promoting charter government for Carroll might have to wait longer than it had hoped to raise the curtain on its full-scale campaign.
"The lights are on and we're ready to take the stage," said Committee for Charter Government Chairman David Duree after a public informational meeting at the Agricultural Center Monday night. "We don't dare delay, but we're not ready to step forward with our initiative until it's appropriate."
The Carroll Charter Board -- a panel that is separate from the campaign committee -- had planned to vote on a final draft of the document last night and present it to the county commissioners tomorrow.
But that was before the board received an eight-page analysis it requested from the University of Maryland's Institute for Governmental Service.
That analysis cites omissions and suggests making numerous improvements to the charter by clarifying intentions and vague provisions, and addressing potential legal problems.
The charter would serve as Carroll government's constitution if voters approve it. It outlines government's structure and principles by which the county would be governed, and would transfer the authority to enact certain local laws from the state legislature to a county council.
The charter proposes a five-member council, elected by districts, to replace the current three commissioners, who are elected at-large.
It also proposes an appointed administrator to oversee government, rather than an elected executive who could set policy.
The frazzled charter board, which has met weekly for nearly nine months to write the document without the institute's assistance, discussed how the institute's comments could affect the board's tight schedule after Monday's public meeting.
Charter board members convened again last night to work on resolving issues raised by the institute, which has been employed by other Maryland counties to assist them in writing charters.
On Monday, the board decided to try to complete the charter and present it to the commissioners this week. But the group acknowledged that the effort could carry over into next week, or longer, if changes and additions are time-consuming.
The commissioners must publish the charter in a local newspaper twice within 30 days after they receive it. An election must take place between 30 and 90 days after publication.
The charter board plans to place the charter on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Mr. Duree said he is concerned that the committee advocating the change in government from the commission system might have too little time to perform its role.
"It's an important objective to be sound and appropriate," he told the board. "It's also exceedingly important that the public have time to digest it. We've gone from 90 days to 60 days to less than that. If it's pushed back to 30 days, that's little time to get the issue to the public and inform them so they can vote on it."
Charter Board co-chairman Jon R. Buck agreed that time is crucial.
"We can write the best document, but if we don't carry it the extra mile, we haven't served the county well," he said.