January 18, 1993

Carroll's commissioners, delivering their state of the county addresses at the Chamber of Commerce meeting last week, said the worst of the county's fiscal crisis is behind us. With an increasing number of economic signs improving, they are probably right. Nevertheless, it is going to take years to rebuild some programs that were slashed, improve the moral of county workers who have been without raises and restore a sense of optimism to residents.

As Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy aptly put it, the county has been existing on the basics. He compared it to a diner at a restaurant sticking to the entrees and avoiding the appetizers, salads and desserts. One can survive that way, but the eating isn't as enjoyable.

One of the purposes of government is to maintain and improve the quality of life of its citizens. At present, the county government has been trying to maintain the level of services by infusing money into programs the state has slashed.

In the case of the hard-hit health department, for example, the county has restored some of the cuts. Still, the department offers but half of the addiction and detoxification programs it did two years ago. Its neurology and ear, nose and throat clinics have closed, and there are fewer area nurses. The department's water sampling, restaurant inspection and development reviews are limping along. And these functions are certainly not dessert; they are the meat and potatoes that ensure the health of county residents.

Other departments and public organizations also have had their some of their essential services curtailed. New acquisitions for the library system were cut, and the popular genealogy room at the main branch became an endangered species. The Rape Crisis Intervention Service had to begin charging for its literature and presentations. The farmland preservation program has been unable to buy easements for the past three years. Carroll Transit is on the verge of going under because weakened state agencies no long pay as much for transportation services.

Along with the waste that needed to be eliminated during the past three years of budget-cutting, many important and necessary services were also pared severely. The commissioners should keep an eye on programs that deserve restoration once more dollars again flow into the county treasury.

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