Carroll faces `tough decisions'

Funds scarce, commissioner says

January 11, 2008|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

Waste disposal, a county police force, water shortages and budget cuts are among the top issues facing Carroll County, the Board of Commissioners said yesterday in the annual State of the County address.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, president of the board, delivered the remarks on behalf of all three commissioners at a luncheon in Westminster hosted by the county Chamber of Commerce. In a 20-minute speech to an audience of about 200, Gouge discussed the challenges ahead, and accomplishments in the previous year.

"With all the uncertainty with state funding and our revenue sources, there will be some very tough decisions to make this year," said Gouge, referring to state budget cuts of about $8.5 million for Carroll. "Money seems harder to find."

Education in particular has been hard hit by this shortfall, Gouge said, as nearly $5 million of that sum represents money for the school system.

Gouge said the financial picture could worsen, depending on how the state decides to make more than $200 million in further cuts.

She described the numerous options the commissioners have as they determine the best way to deal with county waste: recycling, composting, transporting to out-of-county sites or building a waste-to-energy plant.

"This is a big question and one that we hope to answer this year," Gouge said, adding that the county's waste-management contract is up for renegotiation at the end of 2008. "We have to rethink the way we think about our waste."

To that end, the county introduced "single-stream" recycling, she said, allowing bottles, plastics, paper and cardboard to be thrown in the same container. She encouraged business leaders to consider ways to reduce their waste and increase recycling.

The address also touched on the commissioners' October decision to create a county police force, instead of relying on the resident trooper program with the Maryland State Police - an increasingly costly program that the county does not control, Gouge said.

"As our population has grown, the need for more police has become evident," Gouge said. "And that will continue to grow as our population grows."

A county police force, with central dispatch and unified patrols, would better serve residents, she said.

Speaking about the county's continuing struggle with water shortages, she noted the county's agreements with Westminster, Taneytown and Mount Airy to find solutions. A committee was recently launched to help the county and towns address water and growth issues.

"Without water, we cannot expand our commercial and industrial base," Gouge said. "Securing enough water is, without a doubt, one of the most serious concerns and challenges we have."

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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