Realism-Based Capital Planning CARROLL COUNTY


After several years of minimal investments on infrastructure, the capital spending "wish list" that Carroll County government agencies submitted early this month greatly ratchets up future outlays. These requests, now pending before the Planning Commission, call for more schools, a new jail, a tourist center and new libraries. They indicate that government officials are expecting continued rapid population growth and are now scrambling to prepare for that inevitability.

Clearly, not all of the projects -- estimated to cost $67.7 million next year -- will be approved. But many of these buildings, road repairs, bridge rehabilitations, land and equipment purchases constitute the underlying framework necessary for county residents to live and work.

In the five-year plan, school construction and renovation claim the lion's share of the money. During the next fiscal year, the school board is seeking about $30 million for new construction and rehabilitation projects. That is slightly less than the $32.7 million the county will spend this year on all of its capital programs. Construction of the Oklahoma Middle School in South Carroll and expansion of Taneytown Elementary are responsible for half the education request.

Carroll Community College is also seeking substantial sums in anticipation of continued enrollment growth. For the next year, the college would like to spend about $7 million to build a learning resource center.

As for the rest of county government, by requesting $7 million for the construction of a new detention center in the 1996 budget year, officials have recognized that adding modular cells to the existing jail is but a Band-Aid solution. No site has been specified for the proposed building. By putting the request in this year, the question of how to handle the growing number of detainees will be put front and center before the county commissioners.

While these large investments into public buildings may seem grandiose compared to the county's bare-bones capital spending of the past three years, they are not extravagances. Without the new schools, libraries and, unfortunately, jail, Carroll will not have the underlying foundation to support the increasing number of people who call this county home.

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