COMMITTEE DEBATES WHETHER TO INTEGRATE OR ISOLATE COUNTY

THE BALTIMORE SUN

County Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy is sentimental about Baltimore, where he met his wife of 47 years and earned a paycheck as a chemist for nearly four decades.

But as the lifelong Manchester resident learned while campaigning last year, some Carroll residents, especiallythose with roots here, don't share his fondness for Charm City.

"I heard so many remarks from people telling me to see to it thatwe stop sending our money to Baltimore," said Lippy, 70. "That was the prevailing sentiment."

Partly in response, the commissioners have formed a six-member citizens committee to study whether to continue the county's 28-year affiliation with the Baltimore Regional Council of Governments.

The regional council, established in 1963, coordinates planning among member jurisdictions, provides technical assistance, administers programs, channels federal money to county governments and offers special services at reduced costs. Carroll, Baltimore,Howard, Harford, and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore City are members.

Underlying the investigation -- similar to inquiries of previous county administrations -- are the "isolationist" views held by some Carroll residents, say county political activists. These residents believe that policies benefiting Baltimore and its more urban neighbors wouldn't necessarily be in Carroll's best interest.

Former Commissioner Jeff Griffith labels it "Baltimore-phobia," citing past efforts to secede from the council.

"As soon as people realize our economic future is intrinsically linked to the Baltimore region, the better off we'll be," he said.

C.D. "Hap" Baker of Hampstead and Jon Buck of Sykesville are representative of two factions frequently butting heads in Carroll politics -- those who yearn to turn the clockback on development and those who accept growth and recommend planning for it.

Baker, 65, advocates that Carroll assume a limited rolein planning for the Baltimore region, primarily to protect rural interests. The avid outdoorsman says city people are moving out to Carroll, bringing urban values and regulations to "a farming county."

Buck, 53, an engineer who ran for commissioner last year, recommends strong involvement in regional planning to increase the county's influence, especially in competing for highway projects. Five-year-old Interstate 795 and burgeoning bedroom communities have made Carroll's link to the Baltimore region an undeniable reality, said Buck, a formerparticipant in the Washington Council of Governments.

The study committee will compare the costs of BRCOG membership with the benefitsand revenues received, assess whether similar services could be obtained from other sources at less expense, evaluate the value and quality of information, and determine whether the council's priorities areconsistent with Carroll's.

The income and benefits Carroll received from BRCOG over the last three fiscal years -- $1.9 million -- equals about 10 times its cost to the county, said a BRCOG report to thecommissioners. Most of the income takes the form of housing assistance for low-income people.

The Maryland Office of Planning also is evaluating BRCOG, reviewing the agency's mission and management, and surveying elected regional officials and community leaders to determine needs.

"We're not doing this in a vacuum," said Joseph M. Getty, chairman of the county committee.

The county allocated $50,880 toward the council for membership in fiscal 1992. Annual contributions, which fluctuate depending on state aid, range between $30,000 and $60,000.

Carroll's state legislators also are pursuing independencefrom Baltimore-area neighbors. Five of Carroll's six lawmakers have lobbied for exclusion from any Baltimore metropolitan county when legislative redistricting takes place next year.

BRCOG membership last was considered in 1983, when the commissioners voted, 2-1, to stay in the council, overriding the Carroll General Assembly delegation's vote to pull out, said former Commissioner John L. Armacost. Armacost, who opposed membership, said participation in the council wastes time and money. He believes a "regional" planning agency within the county would be more efficient and relevant.

The General Assembly would have to pass legislation to remove Carroll from the council. Such legislation would be difficult to enact, since other BRCOG jurisdictions wield power in Annapolis and the governor probably would veto thelegislation, said Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll.

Former Commissioner William V. Lauterbach Jr., chairman of BRCOG's legislativecommittee, said the current investigation seems politically motivated, possibly to satisfy campaign promises.

"It's like motherhood and apple pie to say we're against it," said Lauterbach, liaison to thecouncil from the county Planning and Zoning Commission. "It tends towhet the appetite of isolationists in the county.

"A lot of people think nobody from Carroll County should cross the Patapsco River," Lauterbach said. "You have to. Not all problems can be solved within the county."

Lippy said it's been "traditional and historical" forCarroll residents to remain as isolated as possible from other jurisdictions.

"There's a general spirit of independence that people inCarroll County have," said Lippy. "But the truth is, no man, woman or jurisdiction is an island. We're certainly related to the Baltimorearea in many ways."

Lippy says he is "neutral" toward involvementin the council and will rely on the committee's recommendations.

The study committee, whose report is due Sept. 30, has surveyed county agencies that use the council's services and met with BRCOG's executive director.

Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said he also will heed the committee's findings. But he expressed reservations about Carroll's membership, saying he fears the planning agency could "gain too much influence over local government" and attempt to institute revenue sharing in the region.

"It's a layer of bureaucracy I personally feel we don't need," he said, adding that he believes Carroll should be more closely affiliated with Western Maryland than with the Baltimore region.

The commissioners recently agreed to meet with government leaders from Montgomery, Howard and Frederick counties, an informal arrangement that might better suit Carroll, said Lippy and Dell.

Although Commissioner Julia W. Gouge agreed to the study, she said she believes it is an "unnecessary initiative."

She said she researched the county's involvement in the council during her first term as commissioner and determined that benefits outweighed costs.

An analysis by the county's budget office supported the conclusion, advising that the county "would stand to lose a considerable amount of money and invaluable assistance" by dropping membership (see chart).

"We are part of the region. We need to know what's happeninghere because it affects us," Gouge said, emphasizing that Carroll's economic development depends on integration in the region. "People need to understand we're not part of Western Maryland."

Gouge is a second vice chairwoman on the regional council's board.

The county can influence the council's actions through participation, said BRCOGexecutive director Guy Hager. Each member jurisdiction has three votes.

Lauterbach said Carroll should be contributing to the region'splanning, not just seeking benefits from the organization.

"It would be foolish to get out of (BRCOG)," said Griffith. "We don't have the influence ourselves to make things happen that can happen through(BRCOG)."

NOTE: SEE ALSO SIDEBAR (REGIONAL COUNCIL HAS HUGE MANDATE BUT SHRINKING BUDGET)

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