Delegation likely to OK liquor license, bond plans

Officials voice no objections at public hearing

January 31, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

After hearing no objections to the county's legislative priorities yesterday, Carroll lawmakers this week will likely approve proposals to change alcoholic beverage license fees and fines, toughen laws to control public health nuisances and issue up to $28.5 million in bonds for roads, schools and other capital projects.

About 15 people -- most of them county government officials -- attended the Carroll delegation's annual public hearing on its agenda for the 1999 General Assembly session.

The six-member delegation is planning to vote on the county's agenda on Tuesday.

The low attendance at yesterday's hourlong hearing did not go unnoticed.

"Maybe it's a message that local government is in good hands and the delegation is doing its job," said state Sen. Larry E. Haines, chairman of the county's all-Republican legislative delegation.

Property cleanup discussed

A proposal by the Carroll County Health Department to fine offenders up to $10 a day for failing to clean up their property generated the most discussion during the hearing at Westminster Senior Center.

Larry L. Leitch, director of the Health Department, complained that his department has struggled without success to clean up several county residences so filthy that rats and groundhogs breed there.

In a meeting with lawmakers last year, Leitch showed a videotape of one Manchester residence where broken furniture, rotted food and other debris were piled high on the front porch and lawn. Neighbors have complained of the home's condition since 1995.

Under the current law, an offender may be subject to a one-time $50 fine if found guilty in District Court of violating public nuisance laws. Leitch said the fee is not a deterrent because the fine often costs less than fixing the problem.

Under the county's new proposal, the Health Department could seek a Circuit Court order to stop the nuisance and assess a fine of $5 for each day that the offender fails to comply. The fine would increase to $10 a day if the offender made the nuisance worse.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier questioned yesterday whether the nuisance was defined too broadly. She asked the delegation to review the definitions before finalizing the county's proposals.

No objections were raised over some routine legislative requests by the county. The Board of License Commissioners wants tougher sanctions for alcohol license violators, allowing it to impose a fine and suspend an alcoholic beverage license. Under the current laws, the liquor board must choose one sanction or the other.

The board also asked the delegation to amend a county law regarding temporary beer, wine and liquor licenses. In 1997, the fee for a temporary beer or beer and wine license was raised from $10 to $50 a day. But the fee for a temporary beer, wine and liquor license remained at $30 a day.

The board asked the delegation to propose a bill setting all of the fees at $50.

$28.5 million in bonds

As part of the county government's plan to keep pace with the rapid population growth of the county, Carroll lawmakers will introduce a bill authorizing up to $28.5 million in local bonds for public construction projects next year.

Commissioners expect more than half of the money from sale of the bonds -- about $14.9 million -- would go for school construction. The state would reimburse the county for about 65 percent of the school construction costs.

Other projects include: an addition to Carroll Community College, courthouse renovations and other general government expenses, $4.1 million; roads, $7.1 million; bridges, $627,000; utilities, $29,000. Another $1.2 million will go for conservation and open-space programs.

The total amount of expenditures could change, however.

"That's the rough estimate. That's the top. It could be a lot less than that," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.

Pub Date: 1/31/99

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