Environmental panel uncertain of its future

Talk with commissioners will focus on role since agency was eliminated

April 29, 1999|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

While some ponder the effect of a proposed 2,200-animal hog farm outside Westminster, the county Environmental Affairs Advisory Board studied its own fate yesterday.

Most of the board offered to resign last month after the county agency it was created to assist was eliminated. Yesterday, three of the remaining six members met for 35 minutes and attempted to chart a new course.

The board had little success and a meeting next month with the county commissioners was set to continue discussion.

With board Chairman Kevin E. Dayhoff stepping down to run for Westminster Common Council, issues like large hog farms -- which could lead to changes in county zoning ordinances -- and finding a common ground between environmental concerns and sprawl are on the back burner, which frustrates many members.

"It's not that we're unhappy -- we're uncertain," said Carol Rabenhorst, a board member since 1992. "Mostly, we're in limbo. We need to know what and who we represent and the concerns we can address."

The board was formed by the county commissioners in November 1990 to guide county officials by reviewing specific environmental issues and assisting the Bureau of Environmental Services.

In late February, the commissioners reorganized county government and eliminated the bureau -- scattering most of its employees to jobs in other county offices.

At yesterday's meeting, board Vice Chairman Charles P. Boyles II asked Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier to set up the May meeting to help steer the board in a new direction.

"We need to know what our permanent future is," Boyles said. "What should our workload be and what projects should we be involved in. This is not a good time -- there are a lot of important issues we need to be addressing."

The board's work on the county's solid-waste management plan and a review of the Liberty Reservoir Watershed Agreement sit idle.

"There are so many changes in the county that we've almost been disbanded," said David Booth, a board member who represents the farm bureau.

Six of the board's seven members offered to resign days after the reorganization early last month, but the commissioners persuaded the members to reconsider, saying they would receive staff support despite elimination of the Bureau of Environmental Services.

Frazier said yesterday that the commissioners were busy setting next year's budget and had not had time to address the staff issue. She pledged to do so next month.

Pub Date: 4/29/99

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