By agreeing to purchase the former Telemecanique Inc. plant for the Board of Education headquarters, the County Commissioners have undercut the effort to revitalize Westminster's downtown. This cavalier treatment of the county's largest town is just one more in a long series of slights and insults directed toward Carroll's incorporated towns. Ignoring the towns' welfare seems to have become the commissioners' standard operating procedure.
The county commissioners apparently were oblivious to the economic consequences of removing about 200 education department employees from Westminster. Making Westminster an employment center is crucial to reviving Westminster's commercial and retail activity, according to the consultants and planners who have looked at the question. Removing more than 200 customers from the city means restaurants, carry-outs, drug stores, book stores and clothing stores will have a much more difficult time surviving.
There is no evidence that these considerations entered into the commissioners' decision-making. The commissioners apparently ignored the possibility of using the education department headquarters as a catalyst to encourage new development in the county's major urban center. They never solicited ideas from the Economic Development Council, the Greater Westminster Development Corp. or the county's own economic development officials. Instead, the commissioners made their decision in a policy vacuum.
In retrospect, the commissioners' short-sighted decision should surprise no one. Instead of working as partners, town and county elected officials treat each other as antagonists on issues ranging from growth decisions to enforcing the county's own livability code. This misguided decision to locate a major government department in the middle of cornfields will only reinforce this wasteful antagonism.
When these two levels of government refuse to cooperate, the real victims are the taxpayers of this county. Westminster's problems are also the county's problems. If Westminster's property values stagnate or decline, there will be a direct impact on the county's tax revenues. It is astounding that the commissioners didn't see the development of a new education building as an opportunity to stimulate commercial development in Westminster.