Carroll County government staff have complained that they are not being provided enough money or manpower to maintain or improve the county's infrastructure.
As a result, county roads, water and sewer systems, facilities, buildings, parking lots and parks are left unimproved. Department heads have told the Carroll County Board of Commissioners that the services they provide will continue to decline, or in some cases be dropped, if the county does not hire more staff or provide more money.
We asked all 20 of the candidates for the board of commissioners: What would you do to improve infrastructure?
Here are the responses from the candidates who chose to answer the question:
Cynthia L. Foley, Republican: chose not to answer the question.
Robin Bartlett Frazier, Republican, incumbent: Infrastructure has been maintained, but there is always room for improvement. Our Board increased roads funding by $2 million per year and couldn't even spend it all in one year. When I last served as commissioner we had several work sessions to put together a 10 year utilities plan. It has been over 10 years and the Utilities Enterprise Fund must be looked at comprehensively again to consider future upgrades, projects and on-going maintenance. The majority of my colleagues have not been interested – Commissioner Howard just wanted to throw money at it without doing the research. Fees may need to be reset. Besides finding efficiencies, renewable energies with a capital investor may be a way to save dollars.
Jackie Jones, Democrat: Definitely give the funding to repairs and improvements on a short term basis, for roads, as this past winter tore them up badly. Presently bond interest rates are at as low point, I would use a bond to do some main repair. I understand most of the sewer lines are approximately thirty years old, it would be a good idea to make a study of them in a year or so. There are some bridges that need work done now, so they are safe for fire trucks to pass over them. A study needs to be done of all bridges, roads and sewer lines in the county.
Tina Mawhinney, Republican: The county workforce needs to be managed efficiently so that infrastructure can be maintained.
Stephen Albert Wantz, Republican: We must work with county staff and the municipalities to assure long range planning is in place to repair and or replace our aging systems. A strategic plan to systematically repair and replace must be put into place to avert a costly catastrophe if a large scale failure occurs. Secondly, we must address funding issues as result of this. We need to pursue grant funding and perhaps revisit our current rate and designated county revenue. I support funding for upgrades as a community investment, and then pay rates based on usage. I would also visit the amount of our available county work force, to identify the need to hire additional staff to assure this work is completed. I would also not rule out investigating privatizing some services to alleviate the economic burden to our county.
Brian K. DiMaggio, Republican: Many of the roads in our district are in serious need of repair, and I believe funding for road repair should be a priority in this county. Finding real solutions to many of these other problems will take intense research and a lot of discussion. I believe we would do well to allow the staff in each of these departments to hold public open meetings to discuss possible solutions. They could even allow e-mail submissions for those who can't attend the meetings. Since our staff members are the most informed about the problems we are facing, I believe they would be best equipped to help us find the best solutions.
William Niner, Republican: I feel that we need to take a look at the infrastructure and see where the needs are. We need to see what roads need to be fixed, bridges that need fixing, and what needs to be fixed with the water/sewer systems in the county. Our citizens use these resources on a daily basis and the county government needs to ensure roads, bridges, and the water/ sewer system is in good working order, up-to-date, and safe.
C. Richard Weaver, Republican: Carroll County is facing an aging infrastructure. We can no longer delay repair and maintenance to future years. We need to look at the efficiency within our county system and look at new technologies available for road resurfacing. Our water and sewer system also needs a stepped up maintenance program. We need to create a long term plan attacking the worst problems first and moving as aggressively as we can to remedy these problems.
Mae Alexander, Unaffiliated: chose not to answer the question
Dennis Frazier, Republican: I do not feel enough is being done to maintain let alone improve infrastructure. Roads etc need to be ranked according to their condition. Then money needs to be set aside to bring the worst roads or pipes or whatever fixed first. Then work your way down the list. This is an ongoing problem and must be budgeted for each year, and the budget needs to be adjusted according to the condition of the infrastructure. Of course it does not help o keep up with infrastructure needs since the county staff has been cut by 84 employees in the last 5 years.
Matthew P. Holbert, Republican: First, I would spend time listening to the men and women that work in those fields, and get their opinion of the inefficiencies of their job, and make correct changes to improve the working conditions, as well as the effectiveness of those jobs; second, I would research inexpensive methods of improving sewage systems and waste-water treatment; and third, I would do my damn job
Lyn Mallick, Republican: If the assumption within the question is accurate that county staff feel the county is "not doing enough" then obviously there is a need for discussions with the Public Works department. My research has shown there has been left over tax dollars or surpluses within this department for the past three years.
Kenneth J. Mercer, Republican: I agree with the county staff and was appalled that the current commissioners approved $400,000.00 for a special interest group and on the same day denied a $500,000.00 request, from the public works dept., for infrastructure upgrades. I would work with our public works dept. to prioritize infrastructure needs and immediately approve those expenditures that fit into the budget for a given year with a plan for the future to meet Carroll's ongoing infrastructure needs.
Dave Roush, Republican incumbent: Our infrastructure, like the schools and the Sheriff, all have needs to properly maintain them. All these groups are seeking increased support from tax payers. The funding available is finite and limited. The State has been reducing revenues and shifting costs to the counties. The burden of providing the needed funds falls on the shoulders of the homeowner. How can we meet these needs? Property taxes will become intolerable. There is only one way to overcome these trends and provide the needed funds -- Carroll must have more economic development. Business provides more tax revenue than the cost of providing services. Carroll has the lowest percentage of commercial/industrial tax base of any county in the region. Carroll County needs more business to relieve pressure on property taxes and provide jobs for our citizens. Only by increasing our commercial/ industrial tax base will we be able to fund or needs.
Maria Warburton, Democrat: chose not to answer the question.
Barbara Joan Biller, Republican: Infrastructure maintenance and improvement is a balancing act that needs to be planned for over the long term, incurring a portion each year. Prudent capital project planning dictates budgeting for the life of the asset in addition to the initial cost. For certain infrastructure, the county uses Enterprise Funds to account for sources and uses of funding. A review of the revenue in excess of expenditures provides an indication of funds available for capital projects. Additionally, appropriate economic development brings opportunities to have private entities incur the cost of all or a significant portion of capital projects.
Richard Rothschild, Republican: First, it's all a matter of priorities. We do need more spending on infrastructure. A problem arises when weak-knee politicians trip all over themselves promising more money to everybody in a desperate attempt to get votes. Show me a politician that wants to give more money to everybody, and I'll show you a politician that cares about nobody except himself. In the real world, there is no free lunch. A larger portion of future fund balances (if any) should go to infrastructure. Another option I would consider is full or partial privatization.
Sean Shaffer, Republican: Have the work done. Infrastructure must be maintained. Road and rail is how we travel or have products shipped in the area and bridges must have their regular upkeep. If infrastructure falls apart it will affect all else. I would also include Telecommunications and Fiber Optic networks included in Infrastructure projects.
Cathey Allison, Republican: chose not to answer the question.
Doug Howard, Republican incumbent: I am proud that I have been a vocal advocate for trying to identify the size and scope of our infrastructure issues and working to bring more resources to these needed areas. This Board inherited aging infrastructure that had not been adequately maintained. This includes roads, utilities, schools buildings, parking lots and other areas of infrastructure. These areas have suffered due to tight budgets and the tremendous shift in resources to environmental related projects. I'm pleased that during the past three years, millions more have been put into roads and we are starting to catch up. But we have done almost nothing with utilities, and my recent budget proposal to put $500,000 in to start replacing very old pipes was not approved. It is not acceptable to put our heads in the sand and wait for the next water main to break. The next Board must make this a priority.