WESTMINSTER -- Carroll county and town officials agreed that Saturday's first Town/County Partnership Conference bolstered the often strained relationships between the county and its eight municipal governments.

They emphasized, however, that a one-time meeting would not produce a cure-all for the growth-related issues the county and municipalities are tackling and called for future efforts similar to Saturday's session.

"It was a giant step forward in continuing a cooperative effort," Taneytown City Manager Neal W. Powell said. "We have to keep the process moving forward. Maybe we should have this type of meeting once a year."

Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr., who has criticized county government in the past for failing to communicate with municipal governments on issues of mutual concern, appeared delighted by the tone of the conference.

"What's important is that this is the first meeting they've had, and they had it with municipalities," he said. "This sends a clear signal that (the county) is going to work with us. That has meaning for me."

County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge called the conference a "significant and historic meeting" that's been two years in the making -- since the county created strategic planning committees.

She said Carroll "is the envy of all counties in the state" because of the ability of county and municipal governments to work together.

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown said the conference helped officials from county and municipal governments gain a better understanding of goals and problems.

"We heard different perspectives all at one time that we wouldn't ordinarily have," he said. "It gives us a better picture of what's possible for the county. We can be on the same page when we walk out of here, and that's important."

Brown cautioned that commissioners must be realistic in their expectations for municipalities.

"The commissioners have to realize and accept both the benefits and costs to the growth plan," he said. "They have to remember that and keep channels of communication open."

The conference coincided with the changeover in commissioner administrations this week. Several mayors commented that the new Board of Commissioners appears interested in working closely with municipalities and seems to understand their concerns. And for good reason.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy Jr. recently stepped down as mayor of Manchester to assume the county's top elected post, and Gouge served as mayor of Hampstead before becoming commissioner in 1986.

"The first thing we have to do to resolve problems is to recognize them," newly elected Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said. "I think we've done that here."

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