Candidates in the upcoming Bel Air election agree there are three major issues facing the town in the next four years -- water, commerce,and what, oh what, to do about the underused multilevel parking garage on Hickory Avenue.

While the issues seem clear-cut, voters may be a bit confused just how many candidates are running for the two open seats on the town's five-member Board of Commissioners.

While there are seven candidates listed on the ballot, one of those candidates, Janet Thomas, said last week she's not running becauseshe may have to move from the area.

"I couldn't in good conscience run and win and then find out we had to leave," she said.

The town does not have a procedure for removing from the ballot candidates who drop out of an election. Town administrators plan to create one before the next election now that the Thomas situation has brought thedeficiency to light.

The six candidates still in the March 12 election are incumbent Commissioner Susan McComas, Donald Arnold, EugeneGraybeal, Madeleine W. Grant, Joseph P. Meadows and Felix Tarasco.

A "meet the candidates night" will be held at Town Hall Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The town has rotating elections for its commissioner seats so that terms would overlap.

This gives new, inexperienced commissioners a chance to learn the ropes from those commissioners who have served at least two years.

McComas, a commissioner for the pastfour years, is the only incumbent seeking re-election to her seat. The second open seat is being vacated by Peter Schlehr, who was appointed last year after Geoffrey R. Close resigned to run for county executive.

Nearly all the candidates in next month's elections agree new measures must be taken to boost usage of the town's parking garage, which has failed to lure significant numbers of parkers. The candidates, though, are vague on proposals for resolving the problem.

The candidates also agree that Bel Air must aggressively pursue negotiations with Harford County and the city of Baltimore to con

nect with Baltimore's 108-inch water main.

The main runs from the Susquehanna River to the Baltimore County line and increases the town water supply. A 1989 study by Bel Air showed demand for water in the town is expected to equal supply as early as 1991.

Bel Air also must work quickly to attract clean, commercial enterprises to broaden the town'stax base, the candidates say.

Below is a summation of the candidates' backgrounds and legislative and other proposals they would pursue if elected.

NOTE: SEE SIDEBAR (Garage, growth important to commissioner hopefuls)

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