Carroll's Housekeepers

December 11, 1992

During the first half of their term, Carroll's thre commissioners -- Julia W. Gouge, Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy -- have proven to be able housekeepers, but inferior policy makers. With business-like efficiency, they execute the quotidian affairs of county government.

But when it comes to considering broad policy and the long-range implications of its actions, the Board of Commissioners repeatedly seems to be adrift.

Despite being saddled with the responsibility of shrinking an already Spartan budget, the commissioners, to their credit, have made cuts without eroding the quality of public services.

Their gradual fiscal belt-tightening has worked so far, but signs of stress are appearing. County employees haven't received a pay raise since 1990, and are none too happy that their brethren over at the county Board of Education have received step and longevity increases. This disparity will bedevil the commissioners they assemble next year's budget.

Apart from the towering fiscal concerns, in their dealings with matters as diverse as recycling, economic development and public sector ethics, the commissioners often seem oblivious to the immediate issues as well as to the long-range consequences of their actions.

Even though Carroll is quickly filling its remaining landfills, the commissioners dropped a mandatory recycling program at the request of private haulers and local businessmen who said it would be too onerous.

Despite the need for an organized effort to attract more industrial and commercial development to stimulate a stagnant job market, the commissioners, being penny-wise and pound-foolish, have left the economic development director's job vacant to save a few bucks.

And when a developer paid for a convention trip for the county's permits and inspections chief, the commissioners were oblivious the inherent conflict of interest.

The commissioners should maintain their vigilance over Carroll's continuing fiscal difficulties.

But there is more to running a county on the edge of a metropolis and preparing it for, and protecting it from, great change than simply plowing streets, issuing building permits and balancing the books.

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