Test drive on traffic issues for new panel

Commissioners to hear ways to control speeding in South Carroll today

`This is just a first step'

Previous boards opposed deterrents such as humps

March 04, 2003|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Carroll leaders traditionally have opposed speed deterrents such as humps, roundabouts and red-light cameras, but today, a new board of commissioners will have its first chance to air its views on adding "traffic calming" features to the busy roads of South Carroll.

The commissioners will hear a number of methods for controlling speed and then will have time to express their ideas on speed control, said Douglas Myers, county director of public works. Myers said he would not ask the commissioners to set traffic policies for specific streets or subdivisions.

"We'll just be talking in general and getting the board's feelings about whether they want to adopt a new policy or not," Myers said. "This is just a first step."

At the commissioners' public meeting today, they also are scheduled to appoint an administrator to supervise the county's enforcement of ethics standards for Carroll government employees and elected officials. County officials declined to name the appointee yesterday.

Myers said he scheduled the session on traffic calming because the new commissioners might want to chart a more aggressive policy than their predecessors. Under the previous board, Myers occasionally presented concerns about speeding on residential streets in South Carroll. But whenever he raised the possibility of adding speed humps or other features, the commissioners showed little interest, saying they would rely on an increased police presence to discourage speeding.

Myers said most of the speeding complaints his department receives are from subdivisions in Eldersburg. Such areas would seem natural targets for new traffic policies, he said.

Commissioner Dean L. Minnich, who took office in December, said yesterday that he is no fan of speed humps.

"I don't have much use for devices that force responsible drivers to endure the same nuisances as irresponsible drivers," Minnich said, adding that he would like the county to investigate adding cameras to red lights on roads troubled by speeding.

Many share Minnich's distaste for speed humps, arguing that in addition to irritating drivers, the mounds damage emergency and other vehicles. The humps are banned on Baltimore County roads.

But they are a common feature on residential streets in Baltimore and in Howard County.

Minnich said his opposition to humps should not be taken as a slap against all traffic calming. During meetings, he often mentions his frustration at watching drivers zoom through residential streets that provide short cuts around main roads.

"I certainly have empathy for people who talk about the commuters speeding through neighborhoods," said the Westminster resident. "I know what it's like to live on a street where drivers aren't paying enough attention to the safety of children."

The session on traffic issues at 2 p.m. will be followed by the appointment of the county's new ethics officer. The appointee will replace the deposed three-member ethics commission, which the commissioners eliminated last month after a two-month feud between the panels.

Though he would not reveal the name of the appointee, county Chief of Staff Steve Powell said yesterday that the person had agreed to accept the post.

During a meeting last week, Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said the commissioners had interviewed several candidates but that the first few approached had said the appointment would be too great a time commitment.

It remains unclear what steps will follow the appointment. Powell said he would help the new ethics officer create a task force that would work with the commissioners to overhaul the county ethics code.

The stab at restructuring follows two months of conflict with the old ethics panel, which accused Minnich and Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. of trying to thwart an investigation of Gouge, who also is under criminal investigation by the state prosecutor's office on alleged ethics violations.

Minnich and Jones accused the ethics panel of being tainted by politics when they suspended the three members - John Harner, Suzanne Primoff and James F.W. Talley - in December. They said the ethics commission had lost all credibility with Carroll residents and couldn't do its job effectively.

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