Outside review of land purchase is needed The recent...

LETTERS

September 03, 2000

Outside review of land purchase is needed

The recent decision by County Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier to purchase the Lease Brothers' Farm for more than six times its value deserves a critical and unbiased look.

The taxpayers of Carroll County are entitled to know whether they are again confronting a case of very poor judgment and wasteful spending by the commissioners -- or something more.

Let me say at the outset that the project for which the land was purchased, the construction of a road and railway spur in Union Bridge, is an important project to retain jobs in the county. Union Bridge Mayor Perry Jones deserves much credit for his years of effort to make this project a reality.

But I am very concerned about the apparent lack of good judgment in the way Mr. Dell and Ms. Frazier have gone about purchasing the Lease property. They rushed to purchase it for a whopping $850,000 and are now trying to avoid public discussion of this questionable deal.

This is yet another example of their fondness for closet decision-making, characterized by poor judgment and plain stubbornness.

According to published reports, Mr. Dell was instrumental in the negotiations, side-stepping customary protocol and common sense. In doing so, he settled on a price far above the appraised value without even considering condemnation as an option.

Condemnation would have ensured that the county would pay a fair price, instead of the grossly inflated price it has now agreed to pay, using taxpayers' dollars.

Beyond poor judgment, however, the behind-the-scenes deal, replete with stock offerings in Maryland Midland Railway Company, raises larger concerns.

No one is at this point in a position to levy accusations of impropriety, but it is in everyone's interest to have a public airing of what occurred and how two commissioners could support paying more that six times the appraised value of the parcel.

Given their track record, this Board of Commissioners seems hardly the right body to investigate this transaction. An investigation by the county Board of Ethics or maybe the state's attorney's office seems to be in order.

If nothing improper has taken place, then those who took the lead in these negotiations should have nothing to fear.

But what's paramount is the taxpayers' right to know whether we are dealing with a simple case of poor management -- or something more.

Tom McCarron

Eldersburg

The writer is chair of the Carroll County Democratic Pary's Central Committee.

Leadership follies may leave county bereft

Out here in Carroll County we are suffering from the capers of the dreadful duo, County Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier.

Remember the tax-and-spend Democrats of yore? Well, these two Republicans have the spending part down pat. No doubt the tax part is waiting in the wings.

Take for example the new high school in Westminster. State assistance with construction funds was not available because the enrollment projections did not call for another high school in Westminster. But the commissioners, all three of them, went ahead with this school anyhow.

Millions of dollars will be spent on a school whose need is unproven and which was clearly built on the worst possible site, next to a busy highway and near a big shopping mall.

And then there is the Piney Run water plant. The commissioners could have all the water that the southern end of the county needs from Liberty Lake by just reaffirming the Watershed Agreement.

This document (in effect since 1984) basically states that we won't pollute the lake by building inappropriately in the watershed area. Indeed. the cost of upgrading the Freedom Water Plant is already in the budget.

But the dreadful duo wants to spend half again as much to develop a water source, Piney Run, which has one-five hundredth as much capacity as Liberty Reservoir.

In the process they will probably ruin one of the few public recreation areas in the county. And, because of development that has already occurred and is planned for the near future, the quality of the water from Piney Run is suspect.

But, never mind, the two commissioners would rather spend more and get less just to avoid the rather mild restrictions imposed by the Watershed Agreement.

Baltimore City and the other jurisdictions are holding firm. Good for them.

As a result of all these shenanigans, and more, Carroll County, with all its affluence, faces living like a Third World enclave in a First World state and nation.

Some people are already reopening their private wells, despite the risk of pollution and the fact that it's illegal.

But like a tin-horn dictatorship our arrogant officeholders continue with grandiose schemes for development in South Carroll, inadequate water, overcrowded schools and overwhelmed emergency services notwithstanding.

John Culleton

Eldersburg

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