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Carroll commissioners discuss environmental bills, county fire service, agriculture preservation

The Carroll County’s Board of Commissioners had a packed agenda at its Thursday meeting with discussions focusing on the effect of environmental bills introduced during Maryland’s General Assembly, the transition of Carroll County’s fire and emergency medical service departments to a hybrid paid/volunteer county model and Carroll’s agriculture preservation initiative.

If passed, the Climate Solution Now Act would require the state to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 60% from 2006 levels by the year 2030 and will also require the state to achieve net-zero statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

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Mike Fowler, the county’s legislative liaison, expressed concern that the bill being fast-tracked through the Senate will not provide enough time for the Maryland Association of Counties analyst to present to the committee on what the bill means to the counties and also mentioned that schools will be impacted — any school constructed after January 2022 must either meet net-zero standards are be solar ready.

A screengrab of the Board of County Commissioners meeting Jan. 21, 2021.
A screengrab of the Board of County Commissioners meeting Jan. 21, 2021. (Courtesy Photo)

He also expressed concern over House Bill 472, which would require the banning of the chemical glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in ground up and would preclude its use in the state.

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“It is critical to agriculture and I suspect the county uses it extensively,” Fowler said. “The MACO legislative committee did vote to oppose that.”

The commissioners were also given an update on the transition of all fire and EMS departments in the county into a hybrid volunteer and paid service.

Robert McCoy, the director of the county’s fire and emergency medical services, said the reason the county was moving to a hybrid model was due to an increase in service demands and as a response to the financial burden being placed on the stations.

“There is a lot anxiety, people want a lot of information in the beginning that we just cannot provide at this time because there are still decisions that need to be made so we are trying our best to communicate as much as possible,” McCoy said.

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When asked how the hybrid hiring model was being received by current volunteers, McCoy said there are concerns about staffing and that as of today there is a shortage of personnel available, oftentimes leaving shifts short on paramedics. McCoy elaborated that there is a plan to deal with loss of personnel prior to July.

Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, noted the sensitive nature of the transfer for some families in the county.

“We are talking about individuals who have built up these departments over a long time. It’s been handed down to parents and children and even grandchildren. They have ownership of this and are very personally connected,” Bouchat said.

McCoy said that hiring is already underway, with the order of hiring starting from the busiest stations and moving downward. He noted that six stations in the county respond to 79.3% of incidents.

The board also granted permission for the rural legacy program to apply for a grant from the Department of Natural Resources.

“The rural legacy program has been a great supplement to our land preservation efforts here in the county,” said Deborah Bowers, the agriculture land preservation program manager.

In mid-January, during the state of the county address, Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, called agriculture preservation an investment in the security and stability of our local food chain and noted that the goal of preserving 100,000 county acres is the only goal that has been passed onto every administration since 1980. More than 75,000 acres have been preserved thus far.

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