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Editorial: Thumbs down for Hampstead plant closure; thumbs up for Scouts, bike and pedestrian planning

Carroll County’s first all-female Scouts BSA troop members joined their male counterparts on a co-ed camping trip for the first time earlier this summer.
Carroll County’s first all-female Scouts BSA troop members joined their male counterparts on a co-ed camping trip for the first time earlier this summer.

Thumbs down: It’s never good news when a business leaves town. Dart Container Corporation announced this past week that it would be closing its Hampstead and Havre de Grace warehouse and distribution centers in 2020. The two facilities employ around 90 people between them, though we don’t know exactly how many work out of the Hampstead facility. The Michigan-based manufacturer is building a new facility in Delaware that will house the products currently distributed from the two Maryland facilities, and Hampstead employees will have the chance to apply to work there, while those that do not will be given severance. This is, of course, incredibly disruptive to all workers at the facility and their families, regardless of what they decide to do next. But there’s one reason in particular this departure stings. This past General Assembly session, Maryland lawmakers approved a ban on foam containers that goes into effect July 1, 2020. Now, Dart manufactures foam and plastic containers and cutlery, at least some of which falls under that statewide ban. “While the state of Maryland’s ban was not the core reason to move our distribution operations to Delaware, elected officials’ decision to ban some of our products did not encourage us to keep our distribution centers in Maryland,” a company spokesperson told us. Without getting into detail about the relative merits and costs of the foam ban, this is clearly a cost being borne out already. We can see how it might be difficult to keep a plant open if it couldn’t sell those products in that state. And with a brand-new facility on the way, it’s reasonable for Dart to turn its eyes — and jobs — toward Delaware. Now, is it possible that a manufacturer of biodegradable food containers moves into the empty Hampstead facility? Sure. Theoretically. But we can’t help but be disappointed that a state law could function as a barrier to business in this way.

Thumbs up: When Boy Scouts of America made waves nationwide with its decision to change its name and begin welcoming girls into its Boy Scout-level programming, there was much public debate. Some critics opined that such a co-ed arrangement such as this could do more harm to participating girls than it would do good. Well, now that it’s months after Carroll County’s first all-female Scouts BSA troop was formed, we decided to check in with them and see how summer camp actually went for them. The female Scouts of Sykesville-based Troop 417 joined their male counterparts on a co-ed camping trip for the first time at the end of June, traveling to Camp Minsi in the Poconos for a little less than a week. Scoutmaster Colleen Kelly told us there were no issues, and the girls had a blast. In fact, she said, the girls enjoyed being able to interact with the boys more than they usually would. Now, there was still some space between them; the girls and boys did not share tents, and they stayed in separate campsites. And what about the parents? “The parents in our unit, they’re all really cool. They understand that the girls get to interact with the guys,” Kelly told us. Frankly, we see no reason to be concerned about this arrangement, and we’re glad that it appears to have been a fun, productive trip for boys, girls and adults alike. We hope that Troop 417 can serve as a model for co-ed Scouting. It appears they might be doing so already.

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Thumbs up: The Carroll County Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan, which has been in the works for about four years, is finally getting some public exposure. The plan strives to unite bike-pedestrian projects across the county — that could involve uniting existing bike-pedestrian paths that were built separately, building new paths, adding signs or repainting lines. Clare Stewart, the main planner told us, “We wanted to take the county plus the municipalities and really work with them and see if we create a countywide network." We like the sound of that. But the most important element of this process is the public’s involvement. There have now been three public meetings held to collect ideas and feedback from residents. We thank anyone who did show up to those, and we urge others to consider weighing in in the future as well. The process of this master plan is still in early stages, and proposals for specific changes or additions have not yet been officially proposed. “Throughout the whole process we’ve actually been really trying to get as much input as we can," Stewart told us. That’s how it ought to be. Now it’s on the residents to provide that input. The county Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing Sept. 17 at 9 a.m. in the Reagan Room (Room 003) of the county office building to accept public comment.

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