Liquor board seeks more inspectors Sales to minors are frequent, chairman says

March 18, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

An article in Tuesday's edition should have said that a budget increase sought by the Carroll County liquor board would be used to pay liquor inspectors to work additional hours.

The Sun regrets the error.

Sales of alcoholic beverages to minors in Carroll are rampant, and the county needs two more liquor inspectors to solve the problem, the County Commissioners were told yesterday.

Underage police cadets seeking to buy beer, wine or liquor are successful 70 percent of the time, said Romeo Valianti, liquor board chairman, during a hearing on budget requests for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"Seven out of 10 places are selling to minors," he said.

Valianti is seeking a 20 percent increase in spending -- $7,185 more than the board's current budget of $35,880 -- to hire two part-time liquor inspectors.

The liquor board was the first of three agencies to ask the commissioners for an increase yesterday. The Board of Zoning Appeals and the Human Resources Department also unveiled spending proposals for fiscal 1998.

The Human Resources Department sought the biggest increase, asking the commissioners to add $294,990 to its current $8.2 million budget. The department wants to hire an employee benefits specialist, extend a receptionist's hours, and replace a camera used to make employee identification pictures.

The liquor inspectors, who would be paid $14 an hour and receive no benefits, would check on every temporary license issued for special one-day events, Valianti said.

Many who sell to underage buyers offer lame excuses, Valianti said, ranging from "I thought [the underage customer] graduated with my sister" to "I was busy and just couldn't get to it."

Selling alcohol to minors carries a fine of up to $500.

Valianti described the spending increase as "borrowed money," saying that fines collected would more than cover the new inspectors' salaries.

Money collected from fines goes to the county's general fund and is shared.

The county receives 75 percent and municipalities receive 25 percent, he said.

The Board of Zoning Appeals wants a 1.49 percent increase in its $49,445 budget -- $885 -- to cover the anticipated cost of extra hearings next fiscal year.

"It's basically tough to schedule" hearings, said James Schumacher, board chairman. "We never know how long it takes."

The board would like to streamline the hearing process by "establishing thresholds" for people seeking variances. If an applicant meets the thresholds and there is no opposition, the variance could be granted without a hearing, he suggested.

"We had several hearings, which, in my opinion, did not need to be held," he said.

Schumacher suggested that the $150 fee the county charges applicants when filing an appeal is too low. He noted that a nearby jurisdiction charges $1,000.

That fee may be too high, he said, but Carroll's fee "should be increased."

Regarding the Human Resources Department's requests, Commissioner Richard T. Yates asked why the county needs a benefits specialist when it already has a benefits administrator.

Director Beverly Billingslea said the administrator has a full plate already, tracking benefit plans and laws relating to employee benefits, and dealing with about a dozen people who retire and another 100 who leave government employment each year.

A new specialist would assist employees directly when they have questions or problems about health insurance and retirement plans, she said.

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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