Charter Board adds to meeting schedule Officials hope to have draft of document done by year's end

September 14, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Charter Board will begin meeting weekly )) to hasten the writing of a document that could change local government from three commissioners to a county executive.

Chairwoman Carmen Amedori said accelerating the meeting schedule from twice monthly could produce a charter draft by the end of the year. The weekly meetings begin Sept. 25.

"Weekly meetings will keep the issues fresh in everybody's minds," said Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin, one of nine board members charged with writing a charter.

The board, appointed by the County Commissioners at the insistence of nearly 5,000 petitioners, began meeting in June. Amedori then scheduled five public hearings throughout the county to gather citizen comment.

"We front-loaded the process with public input and are now loaded with people's thoughts," said board member Jack A. Gullo Jr., mayor of New Windsor. "Now the public is looking to us to write a charter, a document we can all live with, if it is passed."

The board met Thursday with three tax experts, who were expected to discuss the inclusion of a tax limit in the charter. The dialogue often drifted to topics unrelated to the issue.

"I was looking forward to information on tax caps, but instead the speakers focused on things the charter board has no control over," Gullo said. "I don't think we got expert advice. Now, it will be up to each of us to find out on our own."

Many charter proponents claim a property tax ceiling written into the 1992 charter proposal doomed the initiative.

Power to adopt tax limits or credits should rest with elected officials, not a board appointed to write a charter, Nevin said.

A 'mandate of the voters'

"The debate should be held by elected officials who have the mandate of the voters after charter is passed," he said.

The board will debate and decide on the tax-ceiling issue when it reconvenes in two weeks. Agendas will focus on an appointed or elected executive, whether council members should be elected at large or by district, as well as salaries and qualifications for elected office. The work sessions are open to the public at a location to be decided.

Gullo, a self-employed attorney, and Nevin will write the charter, incorporating the panel's decisions as they are made.

"As framers of this charter, we should be writing a simple structural framework that people can readily understand and that allows our county government to function efficiently," Nevin said.

The board has about 17 charters to use as guidelines, including the charter rejected by Carroll voters five years ago.

The panel can refer questions to the county attorney or to the Institute for Government Services at the University of Maryland, College Park, which has helped several counties write charters.

'Review not rewrite'

"When the document is done, it will say what we want," said Gullo. "The county attorney can then review it, not rewrite it."

If written in a timely fashion, the charter could go to referendum in a special election next spring or it could appear on the November 1998 ballot.

Pub Date: 9/14/97

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