Panel considers four-year strategy Commissioners want plan to serve as 'management tool'

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

Farmland might be preserved at an accelerated pace, incentives might be offered to industries looking to set up shop in Carroll County, and new roads might be built to alleviate traffic congestion.

These are a few of the issues the county commissioners are examining as they consider adopting a strategic plan that would outline the goals of their four-year term.

"The strategic plan would be a management tool," Steven D. Powell, county budget director, told the three-member Board of Commissioners. "It is so much easier to get all the forces marching when we all know where we're going."

The commissioners discussed several possible goals yesterday during a meeting with Powell and J. Michael Evans, the county's public works director. The board is expected to enumerate its goals next week and then meet with cabinet members to draft a plan for achieving them.

"I think we have to make new road construction a priority," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who is serving his third consecutive term on the board. "If it means selling bonds to do that, I wouldn't balk at that."

Commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier and Julia Walsh Gouge have said that they, too, would like to see roads built to alleviate traffic congestion.

"I would like to look at all of the county road systems and see what connections can be made to relieve traffic problems," said Frazier, who expressed concern about congestion along Routes 30 and 140.

The commissioners also discussed proposed road improvements in the Eldersburg area. Those plans call for work on Obrecht Road and MacBeth Way, and would divert traffic from the intersection of Routes 26 and 32, an area that traffic experts predict will have major delays during the next few years.

Farmland preservation

The commissioners also are considering whether they should step up the pace of agricultural preservation. Gouge and Dell have said they would like more farmland to be protected, particularly in the Little Pipe Creek watershed.

Carroll's agriculture preservation program allows the county to buy development rights from farmers who want to continue working the land but need money for operating costs. Since it began the program in 1978, Carroll has preserved nearly 29,000 acres.

The previous board of commissioners dedicated $2.2 million to preservation in the county budget this year, but additional funds are needed if Carroll is to reach its goal of protecting 100,000 acres by 2020. At current funding levels, it would take about 35 years to preserve that much farmland.

Attracting industry

Evans also pointed out the county's need for industrial growth. Business provides slightly less than 12 percent of Carroll's tax base -- the lowest business-to-residential ratio in the region.

Dell has suggested the county attract new business by doing away with all fees for commercial and industrial projects. A task force headed by county planning director Philip J. Rovang is studying the cost of adopting Dell's proposal. They are expected to report their findings to the commissioners next month.

This is not the first time Carroll's commissioners have considered adopting priorities. Early in its term, the previous board pledged to manage growth, set funding priorities, and provide adequate facilities and services.

The previous board named Robert A. "Max" Bair chief of staff, hoping the new position would relieve the board members of some of the county's day-to-day operations and give them more time to look at larger issues.

However, infighting and indecision caused many of the former board's goals to remain unfulfilled.

Pub Date: 12/30/98

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