Board offers upbeat news

State of County talk focuses on economic, preservation success

Small tax cut possible

Carroll County

January 19, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll commissioners delivered plenty of good news yesterday at the annual State of the County address, including an upswing in economic development, increase in farmland preservation and use of new technology to make government more accessible.

Addressing an audience of more than 200 at Martin's Westminster, the commissioners told a few jokes, offered a prayer or two with political boosterism and painted a picture so rosy that Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier mentioned the possibility of a "small tax cut."

Julia Walsh Gouge, board president, led her colleagues in delivering the address. She said Carroll is well on its way to safeguarding its history and agricultural heritage with 15,000 acres of farmland targeted for permanent preservation.

She complimented the county's new Web site, which posts jobs, advertises bids and allows tourists worldwide to preview Carroll's attractions.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said that officials promise to soon televise public meetings, schedule more sessions in communities and work to "make government friendly and efficient."

During the past year, the county has undertaken several major projects, including a $35 million high school in Westminster for which it has no state funding. Even so, Gouge said, the county is well-positioned for fiscal 2002, which begins in July, and is highly respected by lending institutions.

State contributions to county agencies and projects exceeded $120 million last year, exclusive of roads. Still, Gouge urged the crowd to ask the state for more help.

Pet projects

Each commissioner took the event as a chance to promote a favorite project. Gouge promised that new wells would bring an end to seasonal water shortages in South Carroll, the county's most populous area. Dell praised the recently adopted countywide master plan for growth, the first new plan in nearly 40 years. Frazier listed several successes in economic development, including keeping three companies, which she did not name, that had been considering leaving Carroll.

The annual event, sponsored by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, also offered a chance for politicking. No one was more effusive in enthusiasm for the incoming U.S. president than Frazier.

With her hair in a ponytail and wearing Western togs complete with a string tie and gray cowboy boots, she told the crowd that the best news for Carroll County in 2001 is the inauguration of George W. Bush. She predicted a resurgence of Western fashion and asked the crowd to stand and greet each other with "Howdy, partner."

Partnership was the theme of Frazier's remarks. She and Jack Lyburn, Carroll's economic development director, have visited more than 50 county businesses in the past year, making sure they had information on what the county had to offer.

"There was valuable sharing of information," she said. "We offered technical assistance and helped match up the needs of different businesses."

She spoke of affordable housing, the newly streamlined process for reviewing construction projects and the recent reduction in county inspection fees, calling them tools to spur economic development.

"We want people to know there is a quicker, cheaper way to do business in Carroll County," Frazier said.

Possible tax cut

Cuts in spending last year could mean tax relief this year, she said. The county might be able to trim a few cents from its $2.62 property tax rate.

"It is possible Carroll County could give taxpayers back some of their money without harming the long-term budget," she said.

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