Opinions offered on area needs Commissioner candidates speak at league forum

October 30, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Candidates for the Carroll County Board of Commissioners were questioned last night about their funding priorities, the issue of homelessness and the needs of the county's unincorporated areas at a sparsely attended forum sponsored by the county's League of Women Voters.

The forum at West Middle School in Westminster drew about 30 people, including a handful of students from Francis Scott Key High School in Uniontown.

The six candidates for the school board, and Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes, who is running for re-election unopposed, also addressed the audience.

Republican Donald I. Dell, the only incumbent in the race, spent much of the evening defending the record of the board of commissioners.

"I think we've done a good job," said Dell, who was nearly upset in the primary last month. After absentee ballots were counted, he won by 14 votes.

"We've improved relations with the school board and increased funding for agricultural preservation. We have probably the best agricultural preservation program in the country," he said, before defending the board's decision to return a state grant for a homeless shelter.

"I think we did the right thing," Dell said of the decision. "We can save the taxpayers more money by renovating an existing building instead of paying for a new one."

The commissioners were also criticized for increasing the piggyback and property taxes, which are among the highest in the metropolitan area.

Union Bridge Mayor Perry L. Jones, a Democrat, lifelong county resident and candidate for commissioner, promised to "keep taxes down by making short cuts and spending only what we have." He emphasized that those cuts would not be made in education or emergency services.

All of the other candidates who participated in the question-and-answer portion of the forum agreed that those areas should be given funding priority.

Republican Robin Bartlett Frazier of Manchester, a former planning commission chairwoman who has won the endorsements of state Sen. Larry E. Haines and U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, left after her opening remarks.

Republican Julia Walsh Gouge of Hampstead, a seventh-generation county resident whose political career includes two terms as county commissioner, told the audience that she "would look at the issue of homelessness in many different ways."

Said Gouge: "We have to realize that many of our homeless have been released from our state institutions, and do not want to go to a shelter. We must really study this issue."

Democrat Maxine Carole Wooleyhand of Sykesville seemed to disagree, saying, "We have a duty to see to it that we build a shelter."

Independent Carolyn L. Fairbank of Eldersburg, a slow-growth activist, emphasized the need for unincorporated areas to be represented in government.

"Eldersburg for far too long has been treated as a stepchild," she said. "I believe that in an area like Eldersburg or Finksburg, if the people want to become incorporated, we should at least consider it."

Democrat Roger Larry Mann, whose father was a two-term county commissioner beginning in 1978, said he would support incorporation if that was what the people wanted.

"I think the greatest strength Carroll County has are the citizens of Carroll County. I believe they should be heard," Mann said.

Earlier, the candidates for school board addressed the audience.

Incumbents C. Scott Stone and Gary W. Bauer are running for re-election. The four challengers are Susan Krebs, Mary D. Oldewurtel, James F. Reter and Thomas L. Shaffer.

All candidates supported a greater emphasis on reading instruction and praised a return to a greater use of phonics in county schools.

Board president Stone, a software developer with Lucent Technologies, proposed improving reading skills in the primary grades by devoting 120 to 140 minutes a day to reading and language arts instruction.

Reter and Shaffer called for a return to basic methods of instruction.

"What happened to multiplication tables and geography?" asked Reter, an accountant and former comptroller with the county school system. "We need to be teaching our children these things, not focusing resources elsewhere."

Shaffer, a retired policeman and Westminster business owner, called for more "rote memorization."

Oldewurtel said her main reason for entering the school board race was to push for a more rigorous curriculum, particularly for elementary students.

"We need to challenge the students," said Oldewurtel, a lawyer and scientist. "I think we need to get back to basics and forget the feel-good stuff."

Oldewurtel and Krebs supported grouping children by ability. "Teachers can not teach five different levels of reading to students and do that effectively," said Krebs, a PTA leader for 10 years in South Carroll schools and a part-time financial analyst.

In his remarks, Barnes highlighted the achievements of his office, including the creation of a domestic violence unit and a child abuse and sexual assault unit. He also pledged to continue the fight against drugs.

Pub Date: 10/30/98

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