xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Tomlinson: A Christmas wish list for newly elected Carroll County officials

For most, December means the start of the holiday season. For some, the start of season is marked by unboxing lights and decorations. For others, December is when newly-elected officials across Carroll County take their seats. On Dec. 4, both the new Board of County Commissioners and the new Board of Education members were sworn into office. Commissioners Ed Rothstein, Eric Bouchat, Stephen Wantz, Richard Weaver and Dennis Fraizer make up the 61st BOCC, while Kenny Kiler, Tara Battaglia and Patricia Dorsey join Donna Sivigny and Marsha Herbert on the BOE.

New boards present new opportunities and new challenges. Each board member brings his or her own unique talents and experiences to the job. Carroll County faces several complicated problems and both of these boards need to face them head on like tackling the chore of untangling that string of Christmas lights that resembles the Gordian Knot. Instead of sending my Christmas wish list to the North Pole this month, I am going to send my “Carroll County Government Wish List” over to the newly elected officials at North Court and Center streets.

Advertisement

At the top of my list, which I am checking twice, is a wish for the commissioners to take action on the results of the Long-Term Advisory Board. The advisory board was assembled to think past the usual five-to-10-year horizon commonly seen in county planning. They were tasked with coming up with recommendations for the commissioners that will prepare Carroll County for the next 15, 20, or even 30 years. After 18 months of research and preparation, they presented their findings on Nov. 27. Now is the time for the commissioners to act and get the county ready for the future that this advisory board envisions.

Carroll County Farm Museum President David Brauning spoke about the continuing decline in farming over the last half dozen decades, revealing that in 1959, over 224,805 acres in Carroll served agriculture as compared to only 132,630 acres presently. The Executive Director of the Union Mills Homestead Jane Sewell commented on the future of recreation and the arts. “There is a huge need for a large multi-purpose sports complex for swimming, ice hockey, skating, team sports, track and field, etc. There must be a large indoor facility as well as several artificial turf fields,” Sewell said. The former President of the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Service Association, Dennis Brothers, presented on public safety. Brothers stressed the need for a new jail, regionalized Sheriff precincts, and centralized fire and emergency medical services (EMS).

Advertisement
Advertisement

The BOCC needs to review all of the advisory board’s findings and determine how to confront these issues or bring these visions to life. Do the commissioners need to re-evaluate the county’s Agricultural Land Preservation Program and make sure agriculture is a part of our public-school education? Does the county’s Recreation and Parks Department need to realistically pursue a turf field? Should the BOCC take advantage of the legislation that passed earlier this year enabling the county to regulate fire and EMS services and consider paid firefighters? It is up to the commissioners to decide this, but regardless, it would be a shame to let all of this research and time go the way of chimney-bound gifts — down a hole.

The next item I would like to see in my stocking on Christmas morning is a promise from the BOE to finally act and conclude never-ending studies and committees. Most recently, the BOE’s Redistricting and School Closure Committee presented five recommendations, none of which, oddly enough, involved redistricting or the closing of schools. Superintendent Steve Lockard then recommended that a feasibility study be commissioned to further study three of the five recommendations that came out of the committee. Similar to TBS’s non-stop replay of the holiday film, “A Christmas Story,” I feel like the BOE is showing repeats when it comes to commissioning studies and organizing committees. To be fair, at a recent outreach open forum at Manchester Valley High, Lockard did make it clear that a feasibility study is a part of the state process for receiving construction funding. Although this step of the process is very important, the BOE needs to make a decision eventually. At some point you have to stop looking at trees and actually pick one before Christmas arrives. I have tremendous faith in the new board and the new superintendent, and I look forward to seeing what the next four years bring.

At the very bottom of my list, but certainly not least desired, is my hope that the BOCC explores the idea of moving from a commissioner form of government to charter. The thought of moving over to a charter government has been met with opposition in the past. Between 1968 and 1998, Carroll voters had the option to vote for charter government but decided to swat it away six different times, like a snowball aiming straight at their faces. However, it has been 20 years since the change has been discussed and it is time to give it a fresh look. At the Commissioners’ swearing-in ceremony, Commissioner Bouchat made it clear that he is interested in leading this discussion and possible change. Bouchat said, “the individuals who legislate should not be executing the law, and the individual who executes the law should not be legislating the law.” Like a child struggling to fall asleep on Christmas Eve with visions of charter instead of sugarplums dancing in my head, I eagerly await to hear more on this subject.

Jolly Ol’ St. Nick’s elves are hard at work in Santa’s workshop making sure every little boy and girl receives a gift on Dec. 25. But for me, it is not the elves who I am relying on to make my Christmas wishes come true. That responsibility falls in the laps of the BOE and the Commissioners, and I hope there are enough tools in their workshops to get the job done.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement