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Fourth of July fireworks at Carroll County Farm Museum canceled; Northern Landfill returns to normal hours

Thousands gather to watch fireworks at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster each Fourth of July, but the tradition will not occur this year.

The Board of Commissioners on Thursday came to a consensus that the annual patriotic celebration should not take place in its typical capacity, but said they would search for an alternative way to recognize Independence Day.

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On May 14, the county Department of Economic Development recommended the fireworks display be canceled, as such a gathering would not be permitted until stage 3 of Gov. Larry Hogan’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

Jack Lyburn, director of Economic Development, made the recommendation, which commissioners resisted at first.

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Lyburn mentioned that surrounding counties had already canceled their fireworks celebrations.

“This is Carroll County, we’re not like the other ones," said Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, at the May 14 meeting.

The commissioners asked Lyburn to look into alternatives and come back to them.

On Thursday, county administrator Roberta Windham shared that Lyburn still felt the celebration should be canceled. Safety was the main concern.

Frazier acknowledged that if the gates were closed but the fireworks were still displayed, people may still show up. Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said he did not want to cancel the show, but understood a large gathering would pose a health and safety risk.

“Even if we tried to do this with guidelines to not gather, it still would be very challenging," Rothstein said in an interview.

What’s more, fundraising that usually takes place to support the fireworks show was not able to occur due to the pandemic, Windham said, and if the county did not make a decision soon it would incur an expense from the vendor.

Lyburn said in an interview Friday he’d spoken to Carroll County Sheriff’s Office about trying to police the event, but felt it would be difficult to control the 5,000 people that usually turn out for the event.

“The health and safety was my number one priority all along,” Lyburn said.

The commissioners decided they would like to see Fourth of July celebrated in another way, perhaps similar to how Memorial Day was recognized by a special television broadcast put together by the Community Media Center and American Legion Carroll Post 31.

Rothstein suggested supporting celebrations within the municipalities.

“We can’t forget the Fourth of July," said Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2.

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The commissioners did not come to a conclusion Thursday on exactly what type of alternative celebration would occur.

Landfill resuming normal hours

After temporarily closing the Northern Landfill to residential self-haulers and then reopening with limited hours, the commissioners decided to restore the facility to its normal hours of operation beginning Friday.

At a previous meeting, Weaver asked the board consider restoring the landfill to its normal operating hours. On Thursday, he said the Northern Landfill had been experiencing long lines of residents during the limited hours it was open to them.

Last month, Bureau of Solid Waste staff expressed concerns for health and safety after they experienced an influx of residents. The commissioners voted 3-2 to close the landfill temporarily to self-haulers, with Rothstein and Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, opposed.

One week later, the board voted to reopen it, limiting residents dropping off waste to the hours of 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, or all day Saturday.

Cliff Engle, Bureau Chief of Solid Waste, said Thursday the bureau recommended the commissioners restore the Northern Landfill to regular hours beginning Friday.

“We have had multiple upgrades to the facility, both at the scale house and at the public use areas to help guide customers," Engle said in an interview. "The slow down gave us an opportunity to work through that upgrade.”

Those changes included posting signage, informing residents of safe practices, installing a driver’s license scanner, and upgrading computers, he said.

The Hoods Mill Landfill in Woodbine remains closed, Engle said, as sanitation issues such as a lack of running water need to be addressed there.

Starting Friday, Carroll County residents can deliver household waste, recyclables and yard waste to the Northern Landfill Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Also on Thursday, the commissioners on voted to accept Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant funding to support the Department of Citizen Services. Approximately $2,480 will be used to support the long-term care ombudsman program.

An ombudsman in this program visits residents and relatives of residents at long-term care facilities to hear concerns and educate them about residents’ rights, according to Gina Valentine, bureau chief of aging and disabilities. The CARES money will be used to purchase iPads for the ombudsmen so they can input information they gather during visits directly into a database, rather than taking notes by hand and filing them on a computer later, Valentine said. The funding will also support the purchase of a video conferencing link to facilitate communication with volunteers.

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