Taking stock of legislative largess Ag Center bonds welcome, but five-commissioner board is political ploy.

April 10, 1997

MORE COMMISSIONERS, more bond money, more funds for schools. That was the questionable largess for Carroll County from the 1997 General Assembly session just ended.

There are conditions attached. The authorized increase in county commissioners to five (from three) must be approved by Carroll voters in the November 1998 general election. The $300,000 in state bonds approved for the County Agriculture Center must be matched by local fund raising. The $406,000 a year in extra school funds came only as a token offset for the far larger school-aid package and management overhaul for Baltimore City schools.

The bond money for a multi-purpose building at the Agriculture Center outside Westminster is well deserved; recent efforts by the center's board have already collected pledges and donations of more than $300,000. The $1.5 million expansion should be ready in time for the 1998 summer 4-H/Future Farmers of America County Fair. Legislative leaders say they would support another $300,000 bond for the project next year, assuring its timely completion.

Despite the initial squabbling over whose name should be listed as sponsor, the delegation finally pulled together to win solid approval for the bond issue from the legislature. It was the priority item for Carroll. The 37,000-square-foot building will bolster the county's year-round conference and tourism potential, as well as enhancing the farm fair.

The referendum question to expand the number of county commissioners to five was the pure invention of the six-member legislative delegation, not a request from the county government or the voters.

Del. Donald B. Elliott pushed the bill to expand representation in the county, but refused to allow election of the commissioners by district (which would increase representation). Despite his protests, the bill is a blatant attempt to confuse and thwart the grass-roots movement to win charter government for this

metropolitan county. A proposed charter also will be on the 1998 ballot, as a result of a successful petition drive concluded last month.

The school money for Carroll is insignificant. The county's true need is for multi-million-dollar funding for new schools, which has often met with frustration in Annapolis.

Pub Date: 4/10/97

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