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A better Agricultural Center; Carroll County: Facility smaller, more expensive than first proposed but answers community's concerns.


CARROLL COUNTY needs a new Agriculture Center for the good of the county's important farming sector as well as the rest of the community. Inadequacy of the old center buildings outside Westminster has been apparent for some time.

Plans announced yesterday by the non-profit center's board of directors call for a new building costing more than $3 million that would be located near the existing complex.

The price is double what was proposed three years ago, while the size has shrunk to 26,000 square feet from 37,000. But the value is greater. Most community concerns about noise and traffic from the new building have been addressed by the latest plans, which will require extensive excavation and utility work.

Building next to the existing barns and structures is what most people envisioned when the project was originally proposed and the county's state legislative delegation began to lobby for state funding for the project.

Controversy erupted a year ago when the public learned the planned building would be located in a different part of the center grounds. Neighborhood residents complained the plans would degrade their community.

An impasse between the center's board of directors and the community prompted Del. Ellen Willis Miller to persuade fellow Democrats in the legislature to delay the final $300,000 in state aid last year.

A community advisory panel was formed to work with the Ag Center board on an acceptable design. County legislators pledged to get the final funding this year. They are being asked for an extra $950,000 to cover the increased cost. State money should be made available for that.

The important thing is that the board works with neighbors to build -- and operate -- a desirable Agriculture Center.

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