Mount Airy needs town manager, councilman says

March 18, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

In 1986, during Oliver Davis' first year as a Mount Airy councilman, the town's trash collectors didn't show up for work one day.

As head of the town's sanitation committee, Mr. Davis was responsible for solving the problem.

"Guess who rode the back of the garbage truck and picked up the garbage?" he asked. "Me."

He said he repeated his role as garbage collector several times from 1986 to 1988, when he oversaw trash pickup in Mount Airy.

But Mr. Davis doesn't think it's a good idea to rely on council members to pick up the garbage or to oversee the other daily operations of the town.

He says it's time for Mount Airy to hire a town manager to supervise the day-to-day town business.

"We've gotten big enough to have a professional town engineer and a professional town planner," said Mr. Davis, who announced last week that he would not seek another term on the council. "I think we're big enough to have a town manager."

He said he can't devote enough time to the position -- which pays $2,500 per year -- and his one-man business, Oliver Davis Truck and Auto Repair in Mount Airy.

Under the town's system, its five council members are charged with the supervision of five areas of town government -- planning and zoning, streets and roads, recreation and parks, sanitation and water and wastewater.

Their duties include preparing department budgets and general trouble-shooting. The arrangement is unique among the county's eight towns.

Although he no longer heads the sanitation committee, Mr. Davis is the zoning administrator. In addition to monthly council meetings, he also attends monthly planning and zoning commission meetings.

His zoning duties include signing building permits, preparing the budget for the town's zoning department and issuing zoning violation citations. And since councilman Marc Nance was sent to England last month on business, Mr. Davis has been in charge of the town's roads department.

"It's just too much for one individual to do," he said. "We're the only large municipality [in the county] that doesn't have a town manager."

The towns of Union Bridge and New Windsor, with populations of less than 1,000, don't have town managers. Westminster, which has about 15,000 residents, has no town manager, but the city has full-time department heads.

Sykesville, Hampstead and Manchester, with populations of ,X 2,800, 3,400 and 2,900, respectively, all have full-time town managers. Taneytown, with a population of, 4,290, has been looking for a new town manager since last August.

Mr. Davis argues that the rapid growth of Mount Airy, which has a population of 4,500, has made it impossible for council members to run town departments effectively.

For example, he says he doesn't have enough time to issue zoning citations, one of his responsibilities as zoning administrator.

"It just doesn't get done," Mr. Davis said. "I wish I could."

Other council members are divided on the issue of whether the town needs a manager.

Councilman David Pyatt, who heads the recreation and parks committee, said he supports the idea, although he says it has its pluses and minuses.

"I have a feeling that with all the complex issues related to growth in Frederick and Carroll counties, that we might have to turn some of the day to day operations over to a manager who's there 40 hours a week," said Mr. Pyatt.

Because of his daily commute to Germantown, where he works as an engineer for the Department of Energy, Mr. Pyatt says he can't attend as many recreation and parks-related meetings as he'd like to.

Council president Delaine Hobbs, who's served 22 years on the council, and councilman Billy Wagner, say that Mount Airy doesn't need a town manager now, but will eventually. Both councilmen say the current system is an efficient way to run the town.

"I know it gets hectic sometimes, but I knew that going in and I accept that responsibility," said Mr. Wagner, who runs the sanitation committee and oversaw the development of the town's mandatory recycling operation.

Mayor Gerald R. Johnson said he's opposed to hiring a town manager because of the expense to taxpayers.

"As the mayor, I think the town is being run efficiently and to me it's a waste of money to hire someone to run it," Mr. Johnson said.

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