Carroll County residents support plan for government with executive, council But they balk at term limits

August 01, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

More than 50 people crowded into a classroom at Carroll Community College last night to voice support for a new form of government for Carroll County.

Carroll is the only county in the metropolitan area that does not have a county executive and a County Council. It is governed by three commissioners who have executive and legislative functions.

The commissioners reluctantly appointed a nine-member panel May 26 to draft a charter for a new form of government after proponents forced the issue by collecting 4,858 signatures from registered voters during a countywide petition drive.

A charter for a new form of government would have to be approved by voters next year or in a special election before it could take effect.

The panel has yet to write the charter, but its initial proposal calls for a county executive to be elected at large and for five County Council members to be elected by district.

No one opposed the executive-council idea at last night's 58-minute hearing. When panel chairwoman Carmen M. Amedori asked for a straw vote, nearly all in the crowd raised their hands to support the measure.

Most comments dealt with specific parts of the charter panel's draft proposal.

Several people objected to an eight-year term limit for the county executive and at least two said an $84,000 annual salary for a full-time executive is too low. No one questioned the $15,000 the panel suggests for part-time council members.

If the county imposes term limits on an executive, "we could be denying ourselves the best people," said Ernie Wilson of South Carroll. "If he's not doing a good job, get rid of him. If he is doing a good job, you want to keep him as long as you can."

Cherie Jenkins of Finksburg agreed. "I would hate to see someone doing a good job forced out after two terms," she said.

Term limits are not needed, she said, because "Carroll County is known for being very vocal when it is unhappy with its elected officials."

Jenkins joined Charles R. Cassetta of Hampstead in suggesting that $84,000 will not be enough "to attract a top-quality person" as executive.

"If you're going to get somebody good, you're going to have to pay at least something of what they're worth," Jenkins said.

Charter panel member Roger E. Wolfe of Sykesville told the crowd that the panel arrived at the $84,000-figure after finding out what nearby charter counties pay their executives. The salaries ranged from a high of $90,000 in Baltimore County to a low of $65,000 in Harford County.

"We took something in between," Wolfe said.

Jenkins also suggested that the terms of the executive and council members be staggered so that the county would not be electing a new executive and an entirely new council at the same time.

Former state Del. V. Lanny Harchenhorn urged the panel to write a tax limit into the charter. Harchenhorn doesn't think property taxes should rise more than the consumer price index in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Harchenhorn served on a charter-writing panel that included a ,, property tax limit in a 1992 charter proposal that was rejected by nearly a 2-1 margin at the polls.

Many attributed the defeat to the fact that the proposal called for the council rather than the electorate to choose a county executive. The property tax limit also hurt, charter proponents say, because some voters were afraid it might crimp school funding.

Although Carroll voters have defeated charter proposals twice, proponents think they might be successful in 1998 because the XTC county has added more than 10,000 voters to its rolls.

Pub Date: 8/01/97

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