1998 vote hurts in '99

Republican county punished by governor, delegation says

`It's disturbing'

Bypasses, police site victims of politics, local lawmakers say

April 13, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote and Mary Gail Hare | Brenda J. Buote and Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Though Carroll County's delegation won funding for the Agriculture Center and successfully lobbied for several bills during the just-ended 1999 legislative session, lawmakers were often stymied by what they called the governor's "punitive" measures.

The blows dealt by Gov. Parris N. Glendening against Carroll, a conservative Republican county, included eliminating plans for two bypasses that local officials view as vital to the county's economic development and scrapping the final phase of a $53 million police training center in Sykesville, county delegation members said.

The governor used his Smart Growth initiative, which directs development to existing communities, as a reason to move the final phase of the Law Enforcement Training Center from Sykesville to an undisclosed location in Baltimore County and to cancel Westminster and Manchester bypasses.

The delegation said Glendening's actions were politically motivated.

"The governor intentionally and deliberately zeroed in to punish Carroll County," said Republican Sen. Larry E. Haines, head of the county delegation. "We expect politicians to reward their friends. We don't expect them to use this punitive type of punishment against those who didn't give them their vote, but that's exactly what he's doing in Carroll County."

Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson, a Republican who represents Frederick and Carroll counties, said, "I think the governor unnecessarily politicizes state budget priorities based on election results. Carroll County voted Republicans in at the state level, to the governor's chagrin. I think it will be three more years of being under the heel of an administration that knows very well how to count the votes and realizes they don't need ours."

During the first week of the session, Glendening scrapped plans to complete the police training center in Sykesville. The final phase of the project would have included classrooms, dormitories and offices.

The decision to build the center on part of Springfield Hospital Center was made 10 years ago, during William Donald Schaefer's first term as governor.

"It's disturbing that Glendening would spend $2 million to purchase land in Baltimore County when we already own land and surplus property for the center in Sykesville," Haines said. "The governor should reconsider his decision. It's going to cost the citizens of Maryland millions of dollars."

Schaefer, now state comptroller, and state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, both Democrats, have said they will vote against funding for another site. As members of the state Board of Public Works, Schaefer and Dixon decide on land acquisition with the governor.

"I'm as firm on that as I can be," Dixon said yesterday. "We're not voting for funding to put the police training center anywhere but in Sykesville."

Republican Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale said she feels "good about the statewide bipartisan effort and support" to reverse the governor's decision on the center.

"The governor is using Smart Growth to punish or reward," she said. "That was not the intent of the people who voted for it." Carroll's Republican delegates voted against the legislation two years ago.

The House included in its budget this year a requirement that funding for the center be spent in Carroll County, but that stipulation was removed over the weekend.

The setback came weeks after Glendening pulled the plug on long-planned bypasses for Manchester and Westminster.

Glendening "calls it Smart Growth, but I am inclined to say controlled growth," Del. Carmen Amedori, a freshman Republican legislator from Westminster, said of the governor's decision. "He has probably never stepped foot in the Manchester area, and he is suggesting synchronized lights and traffic-slowing devices. Traffic is already as slow as it can go there."

Haines said he hopes to prove that the planned 10-mile, $200 million Westminster bypass meets Glendening's Smart Growth criteria. He also thinks he can persuade the Board of Public Works to support the Manchester bypass because "there is no reasonable alternative" to the road.

"The legislation provides for an exception if there is no reasonable alternative," Haines said. "That's the case in Manchester. They'd have to build a bridge over the town or tear homes down to make way for another road."

The Carroll bypasses are a county priority because major arteries have become increasingly clogged by commuters and local traffic. Main Street merchants in Manchester say the traffic volume hurts business. They have been lobbying for the 4-mile bypass for several years.

Westminster's Main Street has not experienced similar traffic problems, but Route 140 has become increasingly congested. More than 35,000 commuters travel the highway daily, according to state highway officials.

Despite the setbacks, the delegation found reasons to celebrate the 1999 General Assembly session:

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