Voters back charter changes in Harford Farm preservation, bidding at issue

November 04, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Harford voters overwhelmingly approved a change to the County Charter that will make it easier to borrow money to preserve farmland and another that will streamline purchases.

With all 40 precincts reporting, seven of 10 Harford voters yesterday favored Question A, which will allow the county government to use a different method to repay money it borrows on the bond market to pay farmers not to develop farmland.

The charter change will let the county repay money borrowed on the bond market with installments that vary by more than 50 percent.

County bonds typically are repaid annually in nearly equal amounts, because the charter says each payment may not vary by more than 50 percent from any other installment.

"I think the people of Harford County really do not want to become just another urbanized county outside of a major city," said Deborah Bowers, chairwoman of Harford Citizens for Farmland Preservation, which lobbied for Question A.

"We want to be something different and we want to protect our rural character, and I think the citizens know it's going to cost money. But I think this is a pretty clear mandate."

James M. Jewell, county treasurer, said the land-preservation program and repayment plan will allow the county to give farmers tax-free interest payments over, say, a 20-year period before paying them the lump sum value of developing their land. Farmers would save on income tax liabilities, or defer income tax on the lump sum, he said.

The second ballot question, which will cut red tape in government purchasing procedures, also won approval by a nearly 4-1 margin.

The current charter requires that all purchases of $3,000 or more be made using a competitive sealed bid process.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann wants to raise that spending limit to $10,000. The County Council would set the limit.

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