News of what's going on in the County Office Building doesn't always reach Carroll's cities and towns before it is too late, say the county's municipal leaders.

To try to keep the eight town governments more in touch with what county government is doing, the Carroll chapter of the Maryland Municipal League is talking about hiring a part-time consultant within the next year.

The consultant -- ideally, someone with prior government experience on the town or county level -- is just one more step in the push for better relationships between the County Commissioners and municipal officials.

"There is general agreement that to hire a municipal agent would be a good step," said Lloyd R. Helt Jr., Sykesville mayor and the most outspoken advocate of the plan to hire a consultant. "We want a presence in the County Office Building, someone who can keep us up-to-date on meetings, decisions and other things going on."

The league's chapter -- with representatives from each of the eight municipalities -- has been discussing the position for years. The salary for the 20-hour per week post is expected to be $15,000 a year.

Should the Carroll chapter decide to hire a consultant, the salary would be paid by the municipalities. Helt said that an assessment would probably be charged on the basis of the towns' populations.

Such an assessment would cost about 50 cents per person, creating a yearly bill ranging from $423 in New Windsor to $6,550 in Westminster.

"The cost will be worth it," Helt said.

About one-fourth of the county's 130,000 residents live in municipalities.

The consultant idea came up after many Carroll towns felt they had not been informed rapidly enough about this year's doubling of landfill dumping fees.

When the increase was first announced last year, towns had already prepared their preliminary budgets. Town officials scrambled to change their budgets to accommodate those increases, and many were forced to raise taxes.

The tipping fees went up to $15 a ton in July.

Support for the consultant post is strongest in Westminster, Sykesville and Hampstead, Helt said. In the past, Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown and Hampstead Manager John A. Riley have been critical of the way the commissioners make decisions.

"The county is involved in a lot of projects that have a big impact on those of us in the towns," Riley said. "I think it's time we have someone to act as a liaison for us."

Carroll's MML chapter would be the second in the state to hire a consultant: The chapter in Prince George's hired a Laurel attorney as its part-time consultant last year.

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