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County rejects landscaping


Carroll's commissioners said no yesterday to a state offer to plant $100,000 worth of shrubs and wildflowers in the median strip of state Route 140 at Westminster.

The county's three-member governing board rejected unanimously in an unscheduled vote the State Highway Administration's landscaping offer. The sticking point was that the county would have been required to take over maintenance after the SHA completed the planting.

"We just decided there are other places that money could be spent, that, aesthetically pleasing as it might be, man and woman does not live by wildflowers alone," Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell criticized the SHA's priorities. "When we're begging, and we have been begging for 20 years for a [Hampstead] bypass, and we can't get one, and the state has $100,000 to put in the median strip, there's something wrong with their thinking," he said.

Mr. Dell conceded that $100,000 wouldn't begin to meet the projected cost of the bypass. But he said the state should channel its highway money into road projects rather than landscaping and biking or hiking paths.

Mr. Lippy said he also was concerned about the safety of county employees who would have to enter the median strip to apply pesticides and about maintenance costs, which he termed "no small thing."

Neil Ridgely, county program manager for landscaping and forest conservation, estimated earlier that the county could contract the maintenance for $8,500 to $10,000 a year. G. Michael Whitson, county land management bureau chief, said it would cost $24,000 a year if county employees did the work.

Mr. Lippy said he believes the disparity in the estimates could be traced to Mr. Whitson's higher estimate of the work hours involved. No additional clarification was available late yesterday.

The commissioners' decision came in response to a letter from SHA Administrator Hal Kassoff, which praised them for supporting the landscaping effort.

Mr. Lippy conceded that the action was not specified on the agenda, but said it was not a decision behind closed doors. "It was a public session, but nobody was there," he said.

Mr. Kassoff's letter said SHA would design a landscaping plan for the section of Route 140 from state Route 97 to state Route 31. The state agency planned to have the flowers and shrubs planted in the fall of 1994.

Mr. Ridgely said he was "stunned" to learn of the commissioners' decision.

The Westminster city government might have shared the maintenance cost, Council President Kenneth A. Yowan said. Mr. Yowan said he had not discussed the idea formally with either the City Council or the commissioners.

But when he read about the commissioners' concerns about the cost of maintenance, he said, his thought was, "If the state is willing to contribute X amount of money for landscaping, I certainly think we'd be open to discussing sharing the maintenance cost."

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