Outside review of land purchase is needed
The recent decision by County Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier to purchase the Lease Brothers' Farm for more than six times its value deserves a critical and unbiased look.
The taxpayers of Carroll County are entitled to know whether they are again confronting a case of very poor judgment and wasteful spending by the commissioners -- or something more.
Let me say at the outset that the project for which the land was purchased, the construction of a road and railway spur in Union Bridge, is an important project to retain jobs in the county. Union Bridge Mayor Perry Jones deserves much credit for his years of effort to make this project a reality.
But I am very concerned about the apparent lack of good judgment in the way Mr. Dell and Ms. Frazier have gone about purchasing the Lease property. They rushed to purchase it for a whopping $850,000 and are now trying to avoid public discussion of this questionable deal.
This is yet another example of their fondness for closet decision-making, characterized by poor judgment and plain stubbornness.
According to published reports, Mr. Dell was instrumental in the negotiations, side-stepping customary protocol and common sense. In doing so, he settled on a price far above the appraised value without even considering condemnation as an option.
Condemnation would have ensured that the county would pay a fair price, instead of the grossly inflated price it has now agreed to pay, using taxpayers' dollars.
Beyond poor judgment, however, the behind-the-scenes deal, replete with stock offerings in Maryland Midland Railway Company, raises larger concerns.
No one is at this point in a position to levy accusations of impropriety, but it is in everyone's interest to have a public airing of what occurred and how two commissioners could support paying more that six times the appraised value of the parcel.
Given their track record, this Board of Commissioners seems hardly the right body to investigate this transaction. An investigation by the county Board of Ethics or maybe the state's attorney's office seems to be in order.
If nothing improper has taken place, then those who took the lead in these negotiations should have nothing to fear.
But what's paramount is the taxpayers' right to know whether we are dealing with a simple case of poor management -- or something more.
The writer is chair of the Carroll County Democratic Pary's Central Committee.
Leadership follies may leave county bereft
Out here in Carroll County we are suffering from the capers of the dreadful duo, County Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier.
Remember the tax-and-spend Democrats of yore? Well, these two Republicans have the spending part down pat. No doubt the tax part is waiting in the wings.
Take for example the new high school in Westminster. State assistance with construction funds was not available because the enrollment projections did not call for another high school in Westminster. But the commissioners, all three of them, went ahead with this school anyhow.
Millions of dollars will be spent on a school whose need is unproven and which was clearly built on the worst possible site, next to a busy highway and near a big shopping mall.
And then there is the Piney Run water plant. The commissioners could have all the water that the southern end of the county needs from Liberty Lake by just reaffirming the Watershed Agreement.
This document (in effect since 1984) basically states that we won't pollute the lake by building inappropriately in the watershed area. Indeed. the cost of upgrading the Freedom Water Plant is already in the budget.
But the dreadful duo wants to spend half again as much to develop a water source, Piney Run, which has one-five hundredth as much capacity as Liberty Reservoir.
In the process they will probably ruin one of the few public recreation areas in the county. And, because of development that has already occurred and is planned for the near future, the quality of the water from Piney Run is suspect.
But, never mind, the two commissioners would rather spend more and get less just to avoid the rather mild restrictions imposed by the Watershed Agreement.
Baltimore City and the other jurisdictions are holding firm. Good for them.
As a result of all these shenanigans, and more, Carroll County, with all its affluence, faces living like a Third World enclave in a First World state and nation.
Some people are already reopening their private wells, despite the risk of pollution and the fact that it's illegal.
But like a tin-horn dictatorship our arrogant officeholders continue with grandiose schemes for development in South Carroll, inadequate water, overcrowded schools and overwhelmed emergency services notwithstanding.
Breslin can bridge school board's divisions
I'd like to call the attention of my fellow Carroll countians to my neighbor, Lisa Breslin, who is running for the school board.
In the years I have known Ms. Breslin she has been a leader in promoting issues that benefit school children.
She has taken a direct role in understanding these issues. Since her primary victory, she's been visiting every school in the county talking with administrators, teachers and students. Her focus is the children, not the bureaucracy.
I urge you to vote for Lisa Breslin as someone who will help bridge the divides that are currently keeping the school board from being effective and be a concerned, caring person on the board.
County schools have much to celebrate
The start of each school year is a time for renewal an opportunity for a positive outlook and fresh beginnings. As we open our doors and celebrate 135 years of public education in Carroll County, we can look forward to a successful and rewarding school year.
As we begin the 21st century, we have much to celebrate. We are one of the top-performing school systems in the state, our students score above state and national averages and our staff is consistently recognized for their performance and innovative ideas.
We have a school system we can take pride in and a community that values providing all students with a high-quality education experience.
With the beginning of the 2000-2001 school year, we are welcoming approximately 27,685 students and 2,800 employees to the Carroll County Public School System. We are pleased to welcome 155 teachers who are new to the school system.
An important new addition to our staff this year is Charles Ecker, our new Interim Superintendent of Schools. We are proud to have Dr. Ecker and look forward to the leadership and guidance he will bring to Carroll County.
Dr. Ecker's many accomplishments include serving as assistant superintendent of both the Carroll County and Prince George's County public school systems, as well as deputy superintendent of Howard County Public Schools. He also served two terms as Howard County's executive.
His extensive experience in education and county government will be a tremendous asset to our school system.
Several new initiatives are underway this year. Shiloh Middle School in Hampstead, for instance, is opening its doors for the first time.
In addition, principals have been named for Century High School in Eldersburg and the new Westminster-area high school. Leadership teams are in place for each of these schools and we expect many new and exciting programs and opportunities in the future.
For example, the new high schools will be using the academy model, creating smaller learning communities that draw together students with common interests.
At the elementary level, the school system has received a $600,000 grant for class size reduction. This means 13 added teaching positions and funding for staff development and instructional materials.
Although we have much to celebrate, we have much work to do and many challenges lie ahead as we begin a new school year.
Today's students face a complex and challenging world. As a system, it is our responsibility to make sure they acquire the skills they will need to be successful. By focusing on good instruction and making sure students are provided a supportive environment, we can be assured they will succeed.
We recognize that for effective instruction to take place, all schools must be safe and secure for students and staff. As always, we need to make maximum, efficient use of all of our resources to fully support student achievement.
We must also make sure that we are a school system that concentrates its energies on constantly looking for better and more effective ways for students to learn.
As always, the board is interested in hearing your comments and concerns. If we are to remain an effective school system, it is essential that we have the support of parents and the community.
Our phone numbers, addresses, and e-mail addresses are published in school publications or may be obtained at our Website or by contacting the Public Information Office at 410-751-3020.
We welcome your attendance at board of education meetings, which are held on the second Wednesday of each month. We provide time on the agenda for community input and encourage your suggestions and comments.
We are also hosting a series of town meetings again this year. They provide an opportunity for parents and community members to meet with staff and express concerns.
Dates will be announced in local media and school newsletters.
This is an exciting and challenging time in education. I would like to extend my best wishes to parents, students, and staff as we begin this new school year.
To members of the community, we invite you to visit our schools and see first hand what an excellent school system we have here in Carroll County.
C. Scott Stone
The writer is president of the Carroll County Board of Education.