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Charter board envisions council of 5 or more districts


WESTMINSTER -- The board writing a charter for Carroll government voted last night to create a county council of at least five districts, but rejected a motion that would have eliminated consideration of seven or more districts.

The charter board voted, 7-1, to eliminate from consideration a council composed of four or fewer districts. That vote also eliminated the possibility of creating a seven-member council with four members elected by district and three elected at large.

The nine-member board, which is writing the document that could change Carroll's government, then voted, 4-3, against eliminating the possibility of creating seven or more districts out of the county's population of 123,372.

That leaves the board with three likely options for creating a council: seven members elected by district; seven members, with five elected by district and two at large; or five members elected by district.

The board previously voted to create a council with either five or seven members.

Several members expressed a preference for creating a council with five districts. Each district would be contiguous and should have a population of 24,674.

The legislative subcommittee distributed a rough plan breaking the county into five districts, based on election districts. Those would be: Westminster; Mount Airy, Franklin and Berrett; Freedom and three Woolerys precincts; Manchester, Hampstead and one Woolerys precinct; and the six election districts in northwestern Carroll. The subcommittee has been directed to make final recommendations at next week's meeting.

The charter board meets every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the Agricultural Center. It intends to complete the charter -- a constitution outlining the structure, powers and limitations of government -- in time to place it on the November ballot as a referendum.

If approved by voters, the charter would supplant the commissioner form of government that has operated in Carroll since the 1850s.

Charter government allows local elected officials to enact or modify certain laws for their jurisdictions rather than going through the General Assembly.

The board also discussed salaries for council members and its own tight schedule for completing a first draft and having public hearings.

Co-chairman Walt Bay suggested a $10,000 salary for council members, rather than the $5,000 originally proposed. Bay, a Cooperative Extension Service director, said he had discussed the issue with several "conservative" farming groups who had thought the board was being "very tight-fisted."

Richard Yates said he believed the job would attract people more dedicated to serving the public if the salaries were kept low.

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