Wish list includes new jail, six more schools by 2010 Rapid growth noted in state-requested survey of future needs

June 12, 1998|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

Months before crews complete a 100-bed addition to the detention center, the County Commissioners learned yesterday that more jail space might be needed by 2010.

The commissioners also discovered that the county -- projected to grow by 55,000 residents over the next two decades -- might need to spend $135 million to build three elementary schools, two high schools, a middle school and to renovate schools.

The schools were among more than 100 projects outlined in the county's long-range wish list, compiled at the request of the Maryland Office of Planning. The list includes multiple infrastructure improvements, ranging from an $18,000 library roof to a $1.4 million extension of Hoffman Mill Road to a $1.5 million indoor sports complex.

To complete would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

County officials emphasized that the price tag is only an estimate for proposals.

"We did not split hairs on whether we could afford it or whether it was a politically smart thing to do," Philip J. Rovang, director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning, told the commissioners yesterday.

The survey was required by the state's 1997 Smart Growth legislation, which encourages planning that protects the environment, preserves open land and directs growth toward existing communities.

As part of the legislation, each municipality and county was asked to assess its infrastructure needs for the next 20 years.

Carroll County officials, however, questioned the benefit of the information.

"Does anyone have a clue on how this information will be used?" asked Max Bair, chief of staff to the County Commissioners.

"Bureaucratic job security," suggested Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

The Maryland Office of Planning was not entirely certain how the results would be used, either.

"It's not clear to me," said Rupert Friday, a planner in the state office.

Friday explained that his office was charged with gathering the information by October to pass on to the legislature.

"It's not to generate busywork," he said.

Del. Donald B. Elliott, a New Windsor Republican who sponsored the legislation requiring the survey, also said that's not the case.

He said he hopes the state will use the information to help determine which areas would need help to accommodate new growth.

"My concern was that there is infrastructure that is old and in need of upgrading and there should be some prioritizing. The point I want to make was to say, 'Look, we better find out what needs there are before we take on new development,' " he said.

Elliott is primarily concerned about sewage and water systems. He said Taneytown and Union Bridge have experienced problems in these areas.

Roads, jails and schools and other infrastructure needs were not on his list. "No, it's not what I was thinking. But to expand into those areas is not unreasonable," he said.

Carroll County's survey was compiled by the heads of the departments of public works, transportation, library, parks and recreation, and the Board of Education.

In most cases, any need for the projects will be created by growth. All departments were asked to assume that by 2020 the county population would grow from 150,000 to 205,000.

In the short term, the departments used the county's six-year capital improvement budget, recently approved by the commissioners. Beyond that point, however, they were asked to predict other needs.

The population increase will place demands on all aspects of county government. To accommodate growth in South Carroll, for example, the survey proposed a new government annex, two senior centers and a Health Department office.

The county also might be forced to build a new jail to accommodate a growing inmate population. Though none of the projects might actually be constructed, Rovang said the survey was a good exercise for thinking about the future.

"The important thing is that this was a brainstorming session by some county officials without looking at how the county would pay for it," Rovang said.

Friday agreed: "Some local governments look at this as an opportunity to think in the long term and coordinate needs with the county and municipalities."

This is the first time the state has conducted a survey of infrastructure needs.

Other states, such as Michigan and Florida, have conducted similar studies. South Carolina funded a study to determine what infrastructure improvements might spark economic development in its municipalities.

Pub Date: 6/12/98

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