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Commissioners address needs in the county

Education, economic development, preserving agricultural farmland, and a need for respectful communication between them — even as a couple verbal jabs were tossed back and forth — were among the priorities listed Tuesday by the 60th Board of Carroll County Commissioners during its first State of the County Address.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, spoke of the successes the previous board had, including their refusal to implement the rain tax and the growth of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition. Rothschild also criticized the work group known as Carroll 2030, a volunteer organization consisting of residents of the county, who has as their stated purpose "to develop a process for and perform a needs assessment to identify long-term county needs."

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Carroll 2030 was formed at the urging of Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5.

Howard returned the criticism at the beginning of his speech by saying, "after hearing [Rothschild's speech], there are worse things than singing," in reference to former county commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier's speech during last year's State of the County Address, which she sang.

Howard said due to the work of the previous board, the county was on very sound financial footing, but added that the desires of the county's residents will be tempered by the reality of budget constraint.

"We will not be looking to raise taxes," he said.

Each of the three new members of the board — Stephen Wantz, Richard Weaver and Dennis Frazier — as well as Rothschild and Howard expressed a need for improved and healthy communication.

Howard said no one could accuse this board or the previous of not having, at the least, very open discussions during meetings. At times, however, they devolved into arguments which led to political division and wild speculation.

Healthy debate and even opposition can lead to solutions, he said.

"No public discourse results in bad public policy," Howard said. "We will replace personal attacks and political division with partnership and collectiveness."

Frazier, R-District 3, agreed with Howard and added the key is to be united in their decisions.

"As long as it doesn't get personal, debate, opposition and controversy can be productive," Frazier said. "When we make a decision, we need to move on."

Frazier also said funding of the public school system and making the county more attractive to businesses were his top concerns.

"Carroll County is a great place to live and play, we just need more places to work," he said.

Wantz, R-District 1, who espoused the need to improve both education and the economic development of the county, said all the issues brought up by his fellow commissioners were areas of concern which need to be addressed during their four-year term to ensure success in the future.

"These areas are necessary to provide a quality of life that is sustainable," Wantz said.

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Weaver, R-District 2, who was an educator and administrator in the school system for 38 years, as well as a farmer, said his primary concern was the preservation of agricultural land. The county has placed easements on approximately 67,000 acres of farmland to ensure they remain that way in the future, and he would like to make progress in attaining the county's goal of preserving 100,000 acres, Weaver said.

"There must be a balance of residential growth, economic growth, and preserving our farmland," he said.

Howard said the county's needs are currently greater than its resources, and the commissioners will need to make some difficult choices now to secure the county's future. The upcoming year's budget will be the first step — but not the last — in achieving that success, he said.

"We will translate strength today into success tomorrow," Howard said.

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.

Watch the video

Watch the video of the State of the County address at http://www.carrollcountytimes.com

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