Board to review emergency plans

Panel in Carroll County to discuss storm response


October 02, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

When an umbrella group that includes county and town officials meets tonight, Carroll's response to Tropical Storm Isabel will figure into a discussion on emergency services and crisis preparation.

The Carroll County Council of Governments will be introduced to Bill Martin, Carroll's new emergency management coordinator. Council members also will review municipal emergency plans with Howard Redman Jr., director of the Office of Public Safety.

"We will see Bill Martin's plan for Carroll and where the towns fit into it," said Frank Johnson, a former Mount Airy council president who helped establish the council and is now special assistant to Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.

The Council of Governments was conceived a year ago.

The idea for the panel gained momentum during commissioner elections last year, when candidates and voters bemoaned the lack of communication and collaborative planning between county and municipal leaders.

Through information sharing, the group will help its members reach consensus on issues that affect the entire county, such as growth and emergency services, said council Chairman Damian L. Halstad, also president of the Westminster Common Council.

Co-chairwoman Jeannie Nichols, a Sykesville councilwoman, said, "The council of governments is not just a bunch of people talking. It is a concrete thing that shows everyone is willing to buckle down and work."

The council, which began meeting quarterly in May, will use its second session, delayed for two weeks because of the storm, to pool information on the storm and its aftermath.

Carroll escaped the severity of the tropical storm, but the county's preparedness for a disaster was tested, Nichols said.

"We will talk about the hurricane to see how we did and if we can do better the next time," she said.

Although the council does not make policy, its members intend to keep the lines of communication open between the towns and the county, Halstad said.

Meeting four times a year for two hours hardly gives members time to delve deeply into issues, Halstad said. The group might have to form subcommittees that can meet more often to deal with specific problems.

The subcommittees could help the council address several issues that have been referred to it, including funding allocations for volunteer fire departments and mapping storm-water drainage patterns throughout the county, ha said.

"This will become a deliberative body that can produce recommendations that will have great weight," Halstad said. "My guess is that it will establish great credibility in the community."

The group includes 11 voting members: the three commissioners, Halstad, Nichols, Councilman Dwight Womer of Hampstead, Councilman Ryan M. Warner of Manchester, Councilman Darryl G. Hale of Taneytown, Councilwoman Karen Kotarski of Union Bridge and Mayors Samuel Pierce of New Windsor and James S. Holt of Mount Airy.

The panel also includes nonvoting members from several community action groups, law enforcement, school and fire officials. Among those members are two longtime slow-growth advocates: Ross Dangel, spokesman for the Freedom Area Citizens' Council, and Debbie Ridgely, president of the Finksburg Planning Area Council.

"This group can be as ambitious as it wants to be," Nichols said. "We all have the desire to make sure things work better and the will to find the way to do that. The potential for the group to get everyone on the same page is incredible."

The meeting is to begin at 7 p.m. in Rooms 157-159 at Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road, Westminster. Information: 410-386-2043.

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