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Battle line is drawn at borderline; Baltimore County, Carroll have different approaches to growth; 'The 30 Years War'; Ambulance fees, police crime lab add fuel to feud

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It's hard to say exactly when the feud started.

It could go back to 1969, when Carroll County built a sewage plant near its border with Baltimore County, dumping effluent into a stream that flows into Baltimore County.

It could have been July, when the governor announced he was keeping the state police crime laboratory in Baltimore County, angering Carroll officials who thought it was planned for their county.

But one thing is certain: There's a cold war raging between Carroll County and Baltimore County.

"Carroll County is trying to grow, while Baltimore County is trying to hold on to what it has," said Don Jansiewicz, who lives in Catonsville and teaches political science at Carroll Community College in Westminster. "So you have these flash points."

The tensions heated up last week when Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger vowed to seek legislation in Annapolis to block a proposal by Carroll County's ambulance companies to charge Baltimore County residents for calls across the county line.

The disputes might be traced to the inherent differences between Carroll, a growing county with conservative ways and Republican politics, and Baltimore County, a more populous, more diverse and aging jurisdiction controlled by Democrats, political observers say.

"Carroll County is at a much earlier stage in its development than Baltimore County," said Jansiewicz. "The boom town environment that is occurring out in Carroll County now is what occurred in Baltimore County 40 years ago."

The feud spilled over into the political arena in July when Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced plans to keep the state police crime lab in Pikesville. Carroll County Republican state Sen. Larry E. Haines said the decision, praised by Ruppersberger, was a political move aimed at winning votes in Baltimore County.

Haines raised the ire of Baltimore County politicians during September's primary election when he helped Dr. Andrew P. Harris, a conservative Republican and a political newcomer, defeat incumbent state Sen. F. Vernon Boozer.

Boozer is a moderate Baltimore County Republican who worked well with Baltimore County's Democratic establishment. Haines, more conservative, gave $1,000 to Harris' campaign and encouraged other Republicans to do the same.

"Vernon Boozer just went off the map on the issues," Haines said. "He was just too liberal."

Baltimore County officials don't think Boozer's defeat marred their relations with Carroll officials.

"That election had more to do with internal Republican Party politics than it did with relationships between the two governments," said Michael H. Davis, a Ruppersberger spokesman. "We'll get along with Dr. Harris."

Still, friction remains between the two counties, particularly in the rural stretches along the border, where differences over growth and development policies have become divisive issues.

"We call it the 30 Years War out here," said C. Victoria Woodward, a Baltimore County lawyer who is suing to prevent Carroll County's Hampstead Wastewater Treatment Plant from expanding and dumping more effluent into once pristine Piney Run, which flows through her property near Butler.

Carroll County officials say the increased sewage capacity is needed to handle the new homes and business in Hampstead, a designated growth area along the nearby border.

G. Macy Nelson, a Towson lawyer representing Woodward and her neighbors in three suits, said the legal disputes are aimed at correcting environmental problems created by conflicting priorities between the two counties over whether the land should be developed or preserved.

"You have Carroll County wanting to develop, and you have Baltimore County wanting to preserve," Nelson said.

Woodward's farm is part of a 9,000-acre tract that Baltimore County rezoned in 1997 to restrict development to one house per 50 acres.

That same year, Hampstead approved plans to allow for construction of 500 houses and bring in an estimated 1,400 people, who have been pouring into the community because of Carroll County's well-regarded schools, lower taxes and cheaper houses.

But the feud goes beyond disputes over sewage plants and land use. The issue of ambulance fees has also become a hot topic among volunteer firefighters in both counties who are struggling to meet expenses.

Bob Alexander, president of the Carroll County Volunteer Firemen's Association, said the county's volunteer ambulance companies are not billing individuals, just their insurance companies. Those without insurance will not be dunned, he said.

Carroll crews responded to nearly 1,700 out-of-county calls last year, and none of the other neighboring jurisdictions, including Howard County, Frederick County and York County, Pa., has objected to residents being billed, he said.

"What we've found out is that the insurance companies will pay for this service, and the volunteer companies are losing money by not billing," Alexander said.

Ambulance fees

But the issue of ambulance fees has struck a nerve in Baltimore County, where fire and ambulance company volunteers still provide free service.

Bill Schmalzer, treasurer of the Maryland Line Volunteer Fire Company in Baltimore County, said that the company often responds to calls in Carroll County, but that his company members are dead set against charging fees.

"I would hope that through county taxes there would be a more equitable way to find funds than to charge people directly," Schmalzer said.

Both Carroll and Baltimore County officials say they are willing to work with each other to resolve the ambulance fee dispute.

Haines said that he hopes to set up meetings this week, first with Carroll County officials and then with Carroll and Baltimore County officials, to work out a compromise and avoid legislation.

He said the dispute is based on the fact that Carroll County is going through a period of transition, growing from a rural county to a metropolitan one, and said Carroll's network of volunteer fire and ambulance companies is struggling to keep up.

"When you're going through a period of change like this, you're going to have some growing pains," Haines said.

Pub Date: 2/07/99

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