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Ugly billboards are a blight, insult to...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Ugly billboards are a blight, insult to Carroll County

The recent appearance of yet another offensive billboard in Finksburg gives us occasion to again petition the Carroll County Commissioners to adopt a community gateway signage ordinance.

This sign demeans the quality of our community and indeed all of Carroll County: Its depiction of a hillbilly father with shotgun and pregnant juvenile is exactly the opposite of the image we want for our community and county.

Billboards are the only medium which you can't turn off, or turn the page, if you do not want to read the advertisement.

And this particular offensive advertisement, and a multitude of other billboards, greets visitors to Carroll County daily.

It is a shame that the impression visitors will receive about our community is the one that we all strive to dispel..

Our county commissioners and the Department of Economic Development are no doubt sincere in their efforts to attract industry and commerce, often at any cost, to Carroll County.

But this billboard will be one of the first things a prospective business owner sees upon entering Carroll County through the Route 140 gateway.

What an impression of our workforce that businessperson must instantly form when viewing the rubes on that billboard.

We have repeatedly asked the Board of County Commissioners to recognize the Route 140 corridor in Finksburg as the gateway to Carroll County and to not only prohibit new billboards but provide a timetable for depreciation and removal of existing billboards.

Our multiple attempts to establish a dialogue with the commissioners on this topic have largely been ignored.

It is well past the time for action to ban future billboards and amortize the existing ones.

As these monoliths of visual litter continually display risque messages or downright insults to the communities in which they are placed, one can only wonder when our local government may finally say enough is enough.

Donald E. Hoffman

Finksburg

The writer is president of the Finksburg Planning Area Council Inc.

Changes are underway in the county's schools

As the board of education researches the findings of the internal investigation conducted by Miles & Stockbridge, we are trying to balance the goal of finding effective solutions with the concerns of the community.

We have heard the call for openness and greater accountability and, as a result, Margaret Pfaff, supervisor of elementary schools, has been asked to take responsibility for the content and format of the action plan we will submit.

Ms. Pfaff accepted this responsibility fully aware of the concerns addressed in the report because she has not been.

It is my belief that as a member of the administrative division that has had no involvement with this issue in the past, Ms. Pfaff will provide the objectivity needed to move this process along openly and honestly.

Solutions will take time. But Ms. Pfaff will bring together a staff with the expertise needed to ensure accountability, restore public trust and create the system of checks and balances needed to guarantee that all funding is well-managed and that the bottom line is always about improving the teaching and learning process.

Currently staff members are conducting a detailed review of the report's findings. They are working to ensure that the issues it identifies are supported by substantive information and that the content of the report is presented in a clear and concise format.

I encourage everyone to focus on what is going well with the Carroll County public school system. I'm sure we can all agree that it is easy for the positives to be overlooked while the negatives capture headlines.

For example, how many people are aware that our safe school efforts were recently highlighted in Time magazine and that we have a student who has received the Prudential "Spirit of Community" award for completing 1,798 hours of student service?

We should celebrate these successes and the countless others that happen in and beyond the classroom every day.

I am proud of the Carroll County public school system, yet I recognize that changes need to be made.

I ask for your patience and support as we move through this challenging process.

C. Scott Stone

Hampstead

The writer is president of the Board of Education of Carroll County

Children pay the price for overcrowded schools

I felt compelled to write after reading The Sun's article regarding the proposed addition to Spring Garden Elementary in Hampstead ("Mayor's refusal delaying school plan," April 23).

My son and step daughter are third graders at Spring Garden elementary and I have had the opportunity to witness the overcrowding solutions that Principal Gloria Julius referred to so cavalierly.

While Ms. Julius feels she is "dealing with" the situation, it is the students who really are being forced to "deal with it."

I have joined my son for lunch at school on several different occasions and was disturbed by the rush to "get them in and get them out" that prevails in the cafeteria.

Children stand in line for 10 minutes to get their lunch only to have to rush to get some of their lunch eaten before they file out to make way for the next group.

While overcrowding in our schools may be a fact of life, as Ms. Julius alleges, must it continue? Should we take steps that will likely ensure it becomes worse? Or should we try to address the problem?

We have serious problems and we need serious people with real solutions.

The one thing on which everyone seems to agree is that there is overcrowding in our schools.

But new home construction flourishes. Where are these new families going to send their children?

It is time to either increase the capacity of our schools, including not only classrooms but common areas such as their gymnasium, cafeteria and media center, or stem the flow of new students entering the school.

That might be done through a hold on new construction permits or through redistricting.

Let's set aside our egos and begin the search for some real answers.

Shame on us for accepting overcrowding as a fact of life.

Shame on us for expecting our children to pay the price.

Erik C. Kuhn

Hampstead

Stop circumventing 'adequate facilities' law

If Carroll County government had been performing its duties in a proper fashion, it would not have been necessary to propose a water-use rate increase.

This proposed rate increase will be just like every other proposal the Carroll County Commissioners have adopted: They will, in accordance with the law, advertise the meetings, the meetings will be held and the public will be permitted to speak.

But the public will be given the same old run-around, and the county will adopt whatever it chooses, whenever it chooses -- whether or not is in the best interest of Carroll County's citizens.

Maryland's Adequate Facilities Law requires the Carroll County Commissioners to provide for adequate facilities before approving any developments and issuing building permits.

But the county's 1998 Ordinance No. 161, "Adequate Facilities and Concurrency Management" enables the Carroll County Commissioners to allow building permits to be issued without complying with those rules.

The ordinance, as written and adopted, appears to circumvent the mandates of law.

And indeed the county commissioners do not use "adequate facilities;" they use the "concurrency management" law -- even though the Carroll County government does not have the authority to change state law.

Residents who purchased those new homes were assessed impact fees, directly or indirectly, for public facilities. Those in older residences had no choice as to whether they wished to hookup to public facilities and were forced to pay the required fees.

Now we all are being asked to pay a penalty for the county issuing building permits without adequate facilities.

In planning, the county needs to stop using fanciful visions which are causing havoc and hardships for Carroll County citizens and get back to reality.

It is time for the Carroll County government to obey all of the laws and provide adequate facilities as state law mandates.

The county government is not above the law.

Abigail N. Ormale

Westminster

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