Lessons from Mount Airy

March 18, 1993

The town of Mount Airy doesn't spring to mind as a hotbed of innovation, but there are indications the small municipality may be leading the way when it comes to regional cooperation.

Recently, the town was able to convince the Carroll County Commissioners to kick in $8,000 to help finance the construction of a swimming pool on the Frederick County side of town. And now, municipal officials are taking up the charge from the commissioners of the two counties and will study the possibility of creating a regional high school.

As local government budgets have been squeezed and services have been slashed, very few local jurisdictions have examined the possibility of combining resources with other jurisdictions when feasible.

Instead, local officials have treated the boundaries between counties, and those between Baltimore City and adjacent counties, as if they were as impenetrable as the former Berlin Wall.

The result is that all the residents suffer because the governments on both sides of those boundaries are closing libraries, senior centers and recreation centers that might otherwise stay open if their scarce resources were pooled.

Admittedly, Mount Airy is a special case because the county line separating Carroll County from Frederick County runs right through the heart of it. Nevertheless, town officials have taken the initiative to give full consideration to the possibilities of cooperation.

For instance, rather than build two elementary schools, officials decided to locate the Twin Ridge Elementary School so it could serve students from either jurisdiction.

The issue of the regional high school comes up because nearby Frederick and Carroll high schools are overcrowded.

Mount Airy had its own high school until it was closed in 1967 and its student body transferred to South Carroll High School. Town officials wisely recognized that Mount Airy would now be an ideal location for a new high school to serve the burgeoning population in the surrounding counties.

The Carroll and Frederick commissioners deserve credit for dispensing with the normal political egoism and territorial chauvinism that usually doom these cooperative efforts.

Both sets of commissioners seem intent on encouraging the process of exploring money-saving methods of serving the residents of both counties.

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