State funds focus of talk

Commissioners seek $11.5 million in bonds for land preservation

Sewer loan urged again

Salary increases suggested for sheriff, panel, Md. attorney

January 28, 2001|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

About 50 residents attended a hearing yesterday on the county commissioners' legislative proposals, which include a measure allowing the county to issue $11.5 million in bonds for farmland preservation and service lanes along Route 26 in South Carroll County.

The bond proposal was one of seven presented to the public by Carroll County's Assembly delegation yesterday. Another would allow the county to make loans to homeowners who want to connect to municipal water and sewer service. This is the second year the county is seeking authority to make the loans.

Other proposals on the commissioners' legislative wish list are new, including one that would allow municipal officers to enforce the law beyond town boundaries.

Several recent cases were dismissed by the courts because municipal police officers assisted county sheriff's deputies in making arrests outside their jurisdictions. The proposal would allow Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning to deputize municipal officers, giving them authority to enforce the law outside their municipalities. A similar program exists in Frederick, Harford and Charles counties, Tregoning told the delegation yesterday. "We've received strong support from the mayors of each of our municipalities, the town chiefs of police and the commissioners," he said.

The commissioners also are proposing an increase in the marriage license fee, from $35 to $55, to help pay for the county's domestic violence program. The program, run by Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland, provides counseling to victims, children and adults, and to their abusers.

In fiscal 2000, which ended June 30, the program served 688 people - 440 adult victims, 80 children and 168 abusers - at a cost of $59,465. Marriage license fees during that period totaled $27,150.

Several residents questioned directing dollars collected through marriage license fees to domestic violence programs, noting that domestic violence is not limited to spousal abuse.

The commissioners' other legislative proposals would:

Allow the county to sell surplus land back to the person from whom it was purchased. Under current laws, the county is required to hold a public sale.

Allow the sheriff to determine the probation period for new employees in his department and for those who are promoted.

Allow the commissioners to buy supplies and equipment without going through the competitive bidding process if the items cost less than $25,000. Under current laws, the county is required to put out to competitive bid any request that exceeds $12,000.

In addition to hearing the legislative proposals, people were asked to comment on three proposed bond bills and suggested salary increases for the sheriff, state's attorney and commissioners.

The commissioners, who are paid $32,500 annually, have not had a significant pay increase since 1990, when the salary went from $22,000 to $30,000. The delegation has yet to decide what would be fair compensation. "This is something we've been wrestling with," said Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Manchester Republican.

Under state law, the General Assembly must approve pay raises for the state's attorney, sheriff and commissioners. In the past, the delegation has relied on those officials to determine whether their salary is adequate and to recommend salary increases if needed.

Despite repeated requests by the delegation, the commissioners declined to say how much they or the other elected officials in Carroll should be paid.

"In connection with proposed salary adjustments of the State's Attorney, Sheriff and County Commissioners, the Board will rely on the collective judgment of the Delegation to consider increases in these elected positions, as they deem appropriate," the board wrote to the delegation in a letter dated Nov. 14.

Other county officials were more specific. The state's attorney has asked for a $20,000 increase to $90,000 annually. The sheriff, who makes $45,000 annually, would like a $30,000 pay increase, phased in over the next four years.

Carroll, with the 11th-largest sheriff's department in Maryland, ranks 17th of 24 statewide in sheriff's salaries. To make the position comparable to other counties, the job should pay $75,000 annually, Tregoning said.

"On the surface, these requests are no-brainers," said a Taylorsville resident who declined to give his name. "They should be honored."

The salary increases, if approved, cannot take effect midterm. Pay raises awarded during the 2001 General Assembly session would take effect after the 2002 elections.

The meeting ended with a brief discussion of the delegation's proposed bond bills. The legislators are hoping to secure $364,000 for renovation of the Carroll Theater, $350,000 for renovation of two historic buildings owned by the Historical Society of Carroll County and $350,000 for expansion of the Carroll County Agriculture Center. All projects are in Westminster.

More than 30 people attended the hearing in support of the Carroll Theater project, wearing pins that identified them as arts council members. "We are honored to be considered worthy of making a difference in our community and delighted by the support we have received," said the arts council's executive director, Sandy Oxx.

Construction on the $1.4 million theater project is expected to begin in the spring, after the fate of the bond bill is determined. The Carroll County Arts Council and Westminster are raising $514,000 for the project.

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