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Commissioners face hot issues left by old board Analysis of panel's costs to help determine allowance for members


Though the faces of the county commissioners changed yesterday, several issues raised by the former board linger: a proposed raise in the board's daily allowance, the county's controversial master plan and the fate of a proposed historic preservation plan.

Steven D. Powell, director of the Department of Management and Budget, is expected to forward an analysis of the board's expenses to the commissioners this week. The study will be used to determine an appropriate daily allowance for the local leaders.

Under pressure from state politicians and the public, Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who began serving his third term yesterday, called for the analysis Thursday. Commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier and Julia Walsh Gouge are expected to review the study with him before the board takes action.

On Nov. 24, Dell and former Commissioner Richard T. Yates voted to raise the members' daily allowance -- a bonus given for showing up for work or appearing at official functions -- by 650 percent, from $12 a day to $90. The issue was not on the published agenda for the meeting at which the raise was approved.

The state's attorney general's office is investigating the board's action. Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Manchester Republican, requested the investigation because, he said, the daily bonus is not related to expenses and amounts to a "salary enhancement."

"I have requested an advisory opinion, and I will receive it," Getty said. "It will help the attorney general deal with broader issues, and in the future, if this issue comes up again, we will have this advisory to rely on."

The new board is also expected to take action on the proposed master plan.

The plan would direct development to designated growth areas, set goals for preserving 100,000 acres of farmland and change the land use on five properties totaling 223 acres to foster economic development.

The commissioners can accept or reject the proposed plan, but cannot amend it. Dell and Frazier have said they oppose the plan; Gouge is undecided.

Frazier, a former planning commission chairwoman, is one of the proposal's severest critics.

During her campaign, she called the plan a book "on 50 ways to raise your taxes and increase staff," insisting the proposal only confirmed the county's current master plan, which was last updated in 1964.

Dell, who voted with Yates in September to shelve the plan until after the election, said the proposal "has too many flaws" and that he has put together two pages of concerns about it.

Gouge has said she would like to study the plan further before forming an opinion.

The master plan is not the only document expected to make the rounds at the County Office Building. The commissioners will soon review the proposed Historic Preservation Plan for the county.

The document would promote voluntary preservation efforts. The plan has four main goals: develop programs to encourage historical preservation; preserve historical assets; encourage public and private investment in historical properties; and promote preservation through education.

To achieve the goals, the plan suggests that county officials identify and evaluate historical properties and archaeological resources and list those sites.

The fate of the plan is uncertain. The cost of implementing it has not been determined, and Kenneth Short, the county's historic preservation planner and author of the document, is leaving Dec. 18 when funding for his position expires.

Pub Date: 12/08/98

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