Fair chance for Ag Center funding State bonds for new hall would aid tourism, fair activities.

April 02, 1997

PERHAPS CARROLL COUNTY will get state money for a new Agriculture Center building this session, despite the legislative delegation's opposition to virtually everything on Gov. Parris N. Glendening's wish list. Perhaps.

The county needs the 37,000-square-foot structure to enhance the center's appeal as the site for a variety of shows and other events, not just farm exhibitions and fairs.

The $1.5 million project would replace three existing pole-buildings and a cattle-judging area, with a full commercial kitchen to cater events. The exhibition hall would be the largest of its kind in Maryland, outside the State Fairgrounds in Timonium. It would be a major economic boon for the Westminster area, significantly increasing tourism.

State support for the project, through authorization of bonds to pay for construction, has been a top priority item of Carroll County in the General Assembly for two years.

Last session, Carroll sought $700,000 for the project, and ended up with $100,000. Many saw that as payback for the delegation's opposition to other projects for the metro area pushed by the Democratic leadership.

But it also reflected the limited local financial support for the Carroll project after a year of fund-raising. This year, Carroll organizers have raised $300,000 in cash and services to go ahead with construction in September. The county government has pledged $150,000.

That commitment helped to convince the House capital budget subcommittee to authorize $400,000 in bonds this year, which would be enough to push the project toward completion by the 1998 4-H/FFA county fair.

The Carroll Ag Center bill still faces strong competition from projects sought by other jurisdictions. The county delegation's opposition to administration bills, from treadmill auto exhaust testing to "Smart Growth" land-use policies, will not ease its passage. Neither will the delegation's petty squabble over who deserves credit for introducing the bill.

The new Agriculture Center building will be built, sooner or later. We hope state leaders recognize its importance to Carroll County and approve the bond funding, providing a meaningful cause for celebration at the county fair's centennial in August.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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