Like Daniel in lion's den, governor visits Carroll

Comment

October 10, 1999|By Mike Burns

JUST WHEN YOU thought that Carroll County had been exiled from the state feeding trough by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, the inscrutable political scientist traveled to the northwestern part of the county and beneficently distributed a few alms to succor the bereaved county.

The bag of goodies included $750,000 in Rural Legacy funds and $75,000 to clean up an abandoned junkyard in Detour.

Hungry dogs should be grateful for scraps.

Especially given the atavistic trait among Carroll politicians to bite the hand that feeds them.

Especially if they continue to pout over state rejection of a monstrously expensive bypass through Manchester.

And ignore state concerns over the lack of land-use planning in their development decisions.

Just think what Carroll could have gotten if officials didn't always thumb their nose at the governor. There's the rub, as always. In a period of state plenty, there's much largess to dispense.

Little Pipe Creek aid

The governor's Rural Legacy program to protect undeveloped lands gave out $25 million to 17 counties this month. Carroll received a total of $750,000 to proceed with preserving land in the Little Pipe Creek watershed near New Windsor.

The county requested $5 million from the Rural Legacy Board and committed another $1 million from local funds to acquire easements and buy affected land.

Whether the county will go ahead with its $1 million contribution is uncertain, because of the smaller state grant and because the same thing happened last year.

Then, the county asked the state for $9 million and got $1.5 million. Carroll officials balked at following through with their "match" of local money but eventually put $1 million in county funds into the project.

So there's just enough state money to take the edge off complaints that Carroll County is ignored. But still not enough to make the county commissioners happy about spending more of the local funds on the Little Pipe Creek project. The state's contribution this year will pay for preservation of about 400 acres in the 35,000-acre watershed.

Detour to Detour

Mr. Glendening also blunted accusations that he would not come to Carroll County to see its needs. He avoided a trip to Manchester, where he would have likely heard outrage over lack of approval for a $70-million Route 30 bypass.

Instead, he wisely chose to visit the abandoned junkyard in Detour that is considered the worst environmental eyesore in Carroll.

There, he announced $75,000 in state aid to buy the dump, which not only leaks pollutants into soil and water but also releases debris into swollen streams and increases flooding. Carroll will pay the remaining $25,000 to purchase the site and turn it into an open- space park.

Taking a good-natured shot at his Carroll critics, the governor told State Treasurer Richard N. Dixon Wednesday that "$825,000 in one day really isn't bad," referring to the Rural Legacy grant and the junkyard funds announced for the county.

That was after Mr. Dixon, a Carroll native, cited another dump site on the banks of the Double Pipe Creek as worthy of further state aid.

Of course, the big money that Carroll is seeking is for highway projects. Mr. Glendening killed the Manchester bypass and the Westminster bypass, while going ahead with the Hampstead bypass.

But the Hampstead project is on hold until habitat for endangered bog turtles, lying in the project's path, can be protected.

Besides, it's questionable whether it would be legal to delete Hampstead from the state transportation plan at this stage.

$25 million for roads

Ten days ago, state officials came to Carroll to announce they would spend more than $25 million on transportation projects here in the next few years, under the draft transportation plan. Part of that money would be for the Hampstead bypass.

Carroll officials replied by handing Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari a long wish list of state roads projects they'd like to see funded.

That list doesn't find universal favor in the county. Critics worry that road improvements will simply encourage more development than the county can manage.

Smart Growth concerns

They support the governor's Smart Growth anti-sprawl program to concentrate growth in existing population areas, not to underwrite sprawl by expanding the carrying capacity of existing roads.

And they worry that northern improvements will only benefit trucks coming across the border from Pennsylvania.

All of which goes to show that any decision to build, or not to build, a road project is bound to displease some people.

That's something the governor, a political scientist, learned long ago.

Mike Burns is The Sun's editorial writer in Carroll County.

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