Panel lists roads, emergency services as priorities Planning commission tables discussion on funding requests to build schools

November 18, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Carroll should make road improvements and emergency services priorities, the planning commission decided yesterday during a review of the county's six-year capital program.

During a two-hour review of the capital program, the seven-member panel agreed to recommend that the county commissioners: improve several roads in the populous South Carroll area to alleviate traffic congestion at Routes 32 and 26, and fund construction of a $107,000 training pond for fire personnel.

The panel tabled discussion of the funding requests by the county Board of Education after two planning commission members got into a heated debate over the proposed construction of two schools.

The commission has scheduled a review of those requests for Dec. 2.

"I believe we should make Obrecht Road a priority and pursue improvements to Route 97," said commission member Grant S. Dannelly. "We need to give priority status to roads that would relieve congestion" at Routes 32 and 26.

Deborah L. Ridgely, commission vice chairman, suggested that priority also be given to "those roads that present a public safety problem."

Ridgely noted a mile stretch of Jasontown Road near Westminster as an example. Several accidents have occurred on the gravel road and resulted in injury, she said.

The capital program includes a proposed allocation of $500,000 to widen the road, soften its sharp curves and level its high banks.

In addition to approving those road improvements, the commission recommended the county fund construction of a 30-by-40-foot pond at the Fire Training Center in Westminster. Fire personnel have requested funding for the project the past two years.

The county Department of Management and Budget had deleted the item from the six-year capital plan. The pond would be used to train firefighters to control hazardous liquid spills and perform water rescues.

"We're talking about matters of life and death," said Dannelly, who suggested the planning panel put the pond back in the capital budget. His suggestion was unanimously adopted.

Board member Melvin E. Baile Jr. added one condition to his approval, that emergency services look for other funding sources for the pond.

The panel shelved discussion of the school board's funding requests after board member Maurice E. Wheatley suggested the county delay building a Westminster high school and middle school by two years, sparking a spirited debate.

Dannelly suggested the county cut funding for the schools altogether, a move that would save Carroll more than $44 million. The high school is expected to cost $29.4 million and the middle school, $15 million.

"I don't think we need a new Westminster high school," Dannelly said, after reviewing this year's enrollment figures. "Why should taxpayers spend money they don't have to?"

State law gives the planning panel the power to stop the construction of any public building it feels is inconsistent with the county master plan.

But the county commissioners can override such a recommendation.

The panel was unable to reach a consensus on the proposed school construction yesterday.

At Ridgely's suggestion, commission members Baile and Edward Beard, and alternate David Brauning Sr. voted to shelve the discussion until next month.

Commission Chairman Thomas G. Hiltz did not attend yesterday's meeting.

Pub Date: 11/18/98

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