Five's a crowd

Carroll County: General Assembly should squelch legislation to increase number of commissioners.

January 12, 2000

CARROLL County's wish list for the General Assembly this year includes another effort by Del. Donald B. Elliott to increase the number of county commissioners from three to five.

There's little public clamor for that change, except when someone strongly disagrees with a decision of the commissioners. Few politicians are jumping on the bandwagon.

Carroll voters in 1998 soundly defeated a ballot referendum question authorizing the five-commissioner system. They also defeated a proposal for charter government. Confusion with the charter question turned voters against it last time, Mr. Elliott says.

The New Windsor Republican argues that Carroll's larger population needs more representation in county government. The county's population has increased by almost 60 percent since 1980, to more than 152,000 residents. But three elected commissioners have run the county for more than 140 years.

Would more heads provide more discussion and ideas, or expand public outreach? Again, Mr. Elliott says that constituents have asked for the change and he wants to be responsive.

We wonder if those cited constituents actually live in Carroll, since Mr. Elliott's legislative district also includes Frederick County (which has five commissioners)? Another dubious argument: He notes that the renovated county office building already has offices for five commissioners. Build it and they will come?

Carroll voters would still have to approve the change in the number of commissioners if the legislation passes (as it did in 1998).

But the wiser step is not to trouble them again with a proposal that went nowhere before.

Authority to make loans to homeowners wanting to connect to municipal water and sewer systems is another county request. Carroll needs state approval to make the loans, which are important as more old septic systems and wells fail each year and tougher septic standards are considered. The majority of homes in Carroll are on septic tank waste treatment.

The loan idea would be a good program to help residents, public health and the environment.

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