Lawmakers hear plea by residents for funds for exhibition building Structure would expand agricultural center

March 05, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

ANNAPOLIS -- Carroll residents asked the state House Appropriations Committee at a hearing yesterday for $600,000 in matching funds to help build a 37,500-square-foot exhibition building at the county agricultural center.

The committee approved $100,000 in state bond funding for the project last year -- which county lawmakers view as a sign that the committee might be willing to vote more bond funding this year.

But whether it does will depend more on how Carroll's delegation members vote on favored bills before the General Assembly than on testimony offered at yesterday's hearing, said Del. Joseph R. Getty, a Manchester Republican.

"The speaker [of the House] still has pork back home to hold over people's heads," Getty said.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor of Allegany County, Appropriations Committee Chairman Howard P. Rawlings of Baltimore and Capital Budget Subcommittee Chairman Norman H. Conway of Salisbury will make determinations about bond funding in the last two weeks of the session, Getty predicted.

His prediction may not be far off, said Del. Ellen L. Willis, a Westminster Democrat and Appropriations Committee member who introduced Carroll residents to the committee yesterday.

"It's going to be a tough session," Willis said. Two votes are key, she said, the speaker's tax cut bill and funding for Baltimore public schools, "which is dear to the chairman of my committee."

"I intend to be very cooperative," Willis said. "If [Rawlings] is successful in raising that money, he may be more inclined to help us."

Effort hindered

The county was hurt last year when Del. Richard N. Dixon left the committee to become state treasurer, said Willis, who succeeded the Westminster Democrat on the committee.

"The power left then, but we're back again trying to get the full funding," she said.

Amanda Boyd, a 17-year-old Westminster High School senior, pleaded with the committee yesterday to do exactly that.

"I am here to give my point of view of how the new agriculture expansion project will benefit the youth," she told the committee.

Wet weather plays havoc with the 4-H members' projects and places a hardship on students with physical disabilities, she said.

"If it rains or it's muddy, the grounds are nearly impossible to navigate," she said. "A large indoor building will give our disabled members the same opportunities to see the fair and [to] exhibit at the fair. They deserve to have the same advantages."

The current facilities are "crowded and cramped," she said, making it difficult to maneuver animals. And leaks in the roof cause "additional stress," she said.

"We love the history that our 40-year-old fair buildings have to offer," she said, "but we look forward to the opportunities that the expansion building has to propose -- not only for us, but future generations."

Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale, a Westminster Republican who serves on the Appropriations Committee, told her colleagues that the bond bill "is a very important bill for Carroll County," -- especially its youth.

More than 2,800 young people were involved in activities at the center in the past year, she said.

Upgrades needed

Franklin Ellsworth Feeser, chairman of the agricultural committee expansion committee, told the Annapolis panel that the Carroll County Fair will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year. And although "improvements have been continually made to accommodate the growing needs of 4-H and the community, at this point needs are not being met," he said.

"With the new addition to the ag center, 4-H, education, agriculture, and community activities will continue to enrich the quality of family life in Carroll County," he said.

Lawrence E. Meeks, president of the agricultural center board of directors, spoke of the work residents have done to raise money for the project.

"The ag center has survived because of the work of many volunteers" who have raised money through raffles, tractor pulls, food sales, membership drives and occasional grants from county government, he said.

He noted that the county has donated $135,000 to the project and has pledged engineering services estimated to be worth $52,000.

In addition, a local contractor has pledged $40,000 to prepare the building site and Central Maryland Farm Credit recently contributed $17,500 to the project, he said.

"We have not been idle" since getting initial funding last year, Willis told the committee.

"We have successfully raised $300,000 toward the necessary match and feel confident that since 1997 is the 100th year anniversary of the ag center, we will have no trouble raising the rest."

Pub Date: 3/05/97

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