More than 20 people spoke before the Carroll County Board of Commissioners yesterday at a public hearing on the creation of a county police force, many reiterating their opposition to the idea and their desire for a referendum on the issue.
Some said they want to maintain and expand the local sheriff's office rather than begin developing a countywide force with an appointed police chief, as a proposed ordinance details.
"I'm not really convinced that a move to a county police force is the right move at this time," said Wayne Hollenbaugh, an Eldersburg resident who has lived in Carroll since the 1970s.
County voters have elected "the right sheriff over the past 10 years," he said, referring to a concern the commissioners have expressed about having an elected law-enforcement leader. Residents need to know the pros and cons of a county force versus a sheriff's department as primary law enforcement, he added.
Raymond Page, who moved to the county five years ago, said he believed the commissioners should reverse their October decision to create a new force.
"Why reinvent a new wheel when we already have a great police force?" Page said.
There's no need to rush the decision, added John D. Witiak, of Union Bridge. "Take more time and let citizens have their say."
The county pays the costs for the Maryland State Police's resident trooper program but doesn't control expenditures, according to a presentation describing how the board arrived at its decision. Not having unified law enforcement makes communications and dispatch more difficult, the commissioners have said.
Although opponents of the proposal dominated yesterday's hearing, the commissioners said they have received comments from residents who support it.
"Many county residents have been hesitant to voice their support of a county police force ... because of the ever-present and overbearing presence of the sheriff's supporters," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich, during a meeting Tuesday. "I'm being asked, I'm being implored, to hang tough and do not allow an elected law-enforcement entity in Carroll County."
All three spent the Tuesday commissioners' meeting explaining their views on the subject.
"Each of us have heard from the public that they're not getting the service from the police departments that we have ... that they want, and it's also not what we feel they deserve," Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said.
The October vote emerged from years of conversation, Minnich said. "I certainly have no reservations or second thoughts about the direction that we're moving."
A community meeting, at which the commissioners are expected to answer questions, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday in the county office building.
Another hearing is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 19 at Oklahoma Road Middle School in Eldersburg.