Recourse sought for lost state funds

Counties advised to appeal to Board of Public Works

February 24, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron and Melody Simmons | Thomas W. Waldron and Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

Counties that lose state funding for local projects may seek support from Maryland's Board of Public Works, but the final decision remains with the governor and General Assembly, the state attorney general said yesterday.

In an opinion requested by Carroll County legislators, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said county officials can ask the Board of Public Works to endorse the need for long-planned bypasses for which Gov. Parris N. Glendening has canceled funding.

But even if a majority of the three-member board endorsed the projects, the governor could withhold the money under the state constitution, Curran said.

"It's sort of a hollow victory," said Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Carroll County Republican.

Even so, officials in Carroll and Montgomery counties are pushing ahead with plans to take their cases to the board -- at least to increase public scrutiny of the governor's actions.

Carroll is looking to reverse the governor's decision to withhold state funds for bypasses around the towns of Manchester and Westminster. Montgomery officials want state funding for a bypass around the village of Brookeville.

Glendening pulled the plug on state funding because, he said, the projects don't conform to the criteria spelled out in Maryland's Smart Growth law passed in 1997. The statute seeks to direct state spending to established growth areas to discourage suburban sprawl.

The two members of the Board of Public Works besides Glendening -- Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon -- have said they disagree with the governor's decision on the Brookeville bypass.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said support from those two officials would likely increase pressure for Glendening to reverse himself.

"If the Board of Public Works upholds the appeal and exempts the project from Smart Growth, then there's no reason not to fund the bypass," Duncan said.

Dixon, who lives in Carroll County, said a vote in favor of the projects would "of course" put pressure on Glendening to reverse himself on funding.

But, Dixon stressed, it is unclear whether such pressure would make a difference to the governor, who has staked out a national reputation for his anti-sprawl policies. "This is all new ground," Dixon said.

While Carroll County officials plan to take their requests to the board, mayors of the two towns where the bypasses would go said they are looking at other strategies.

Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said he met with Maryland Department of Transportation officials last week to discuss alternative projects that include a mini-bypass of Routes 140 and 97. Another meeting is scheduled for March 8. Elmer C. Lippy Jr., mayor of Manchester, said he, too, plans to meet with state transportation officials next month.

Sun staff writer Candus Thomson contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 2/24/99

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