Carroll Digest

CARROLL COUNTY DIGEST

February 09, 2005

Project manager hired for work at water plant

Carroll County has hired a construction manager to oversee the $14 million expansion of the Freedom Water Treatment Plant in Sykesville. The commissioners awarded a $1.8 million contract yesterday to Construction Dynamics Group Inc. of Columbia.

The three-year project can begin as soon as Baltimore gives it final approval. The plant draws water from the city-owned Liberty Reservoir, treats it and then pumps it to more than 7,000 homes and businesses in South Carroll. The expansion should eliminate persistent water shortages in the area.

The contractor will help the county design and build the project and assist in a lengthy permitting process, said Tom Rio, chief of the Carroll Bureau of Building Construction.

"There are almost 18,000 man-hours involved in this project," Rio said. "We can't staff it, and we don't have the expertise. The contractor will act as our agent and will be answerable to us."

School bus, car collide, briefly closing Route 30

Route 30 in Hampstead was closed briefly yesterday afternoon after a collision between a car and a school bus that was carrying 21 Shiloh Middle School pupils. None was injured, according to state police in Westminster.

The accident occurred about 3:40 p.m. at the entrance to the Black & Decker Co. warehouse at 626 Hanover Pike (Route 30), police said.

A preliminary investigation found that a 2000 Chevrolet Malibu driven by Steven Jones of the 100 block of Carnival Drive in Taneytown was entering the road from the plant when it collided with southbound bus No. 139 being driven by Anna Dalley of the 900 block of Uniontown Road, Westminster, police said.

The investigation is continuing, police said. Route 30 was closed for about 45 minutes to northbound traffic, while southbound traffic was routed through the plant, police said.

The two drivers were taken to a Pennsylvania hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, said James Doolan, transportation director for the Carroll County public schools.

Commissioners adding $400,000 for libraries

To keep salaries at the Carroll County Public Library competitive and to help retain staff, the county commissioners will add nearly $400,000 to the system for the next fiscal year. So the new salary plan can begin right away, the commissioners transferred $179,000 of the newly budgeted amount immediately. Salaries had remained static for several years to avoid reducing services or the book budget, said Lynn Wheeler, director of the system that has five branches and will soon build a sixth.

"The result is a loss of staff to other libraries in the state and county agencies," Wheeler said. "We have a lot less applicants for positions, too. This funding will close the gaps and bring salaries up to market levels."

Carroll's libraries traditionally post the highest per-capita circulation in the state. In 2004, the staff offered nearly 5,500 programs that she said drew attendance of more than 119,000.

Cable panel urges county to establish Internet utility

Members of the Carroll Cable Regulatory Commission urged the county commissioners to act immediately to make high-speed, low-cost Internet service a public utility.

"It is becoming incredibly profitable to own the pipes that bring information into someone's house," Ken Decker, commission chairman, said yesterday. "Local governments should have the power to regulate their own rights of way."

Fiber-optic lines can be a utility similar to water and sewerage, he said.

"If the public controls the pipelines, then no one person or company can become a monopoly and dictate the technological future of the county," he said.

Dr. Robert Wack, cable commission member, said the county can build the networks by expanding on what it already has. The benefit to economic development would be immeasurable, he said.

"We can choose to consume technology, or help drive technology for the community," Decker said. "We can't do this in a partial way. We have to go big or go home."

Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. said the county "must get in the ballgame and get ready, rather than wait for somebody else."

Decker offered to put together cost estimates. Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said the proposal might be "the perfect place for the county to put its one-time money." The county posted a $12.5 million budget surplus this year.

County to continue Rent-assistance program

With a $43,010 grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, the county will continue to operate its Rental Allowance Program. The county provides rent stipends and housing counseling for as long as a year to low-income families that are homeless or at risk of losing their homes. The grant usually helps 30 households annually with rent supplements.

"This is a small stipend, $300 max," said Jolene G. Sullivan, county director of citizen services. "The family has to come up with the majority of the rent funds."

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