County's price reflects true value of private lands
Shepherds Mill Road is a local county road being designed and constructed to reduce rail and heavy truck traffic in Union Bridge and provide better access to the Lehigh Portland Cement plant.
Without such redesign, increased production at the cement plant would seriously impact transportation and the quality of life the Town of Union Bridge.
The state of Maryland has budgeted $3.5 million for the project, which is justified because it would enhance economic development and benefit Union Bridge, Carroll County and the state of Maryland.
Some time ago, Carroll County allocated $1.5 million for local participation in the project.
The most logical and cost effective alignment for the new highway and rail line connections would run them through through the middle of a private landowner's property.
The principal farm buildings on the subject farm are immediately adjacent to a portion of the highway/rail line to the west.
The farm buildings are further divided by a separate railroad right-of-way to the east which will literally create an "island" of the farm buildings that comprise this family business. Access to the farm buildings and operation center will be limited over the new public road and rail lines.
The new roadway and rail lines will also require considerable grading and changes to existing to pography, resulting in slopes and other undesirable impacts to the remaining land.
Much of the property has been previously zoned for industry and conservation but was not for sale. The owners are farmers who use their property for their agricultural operations and their homes.
The county approached the landowners to acquire the needed land and easements. After the landowners evaluated the impact to their lives, homes and businesses, they assessed their property value and total impact to their business and personal life to be $1 million.
They considered and voiced concerns about a major loss and disruption to their business, substantial traffic from heavy trucks and the public, rail traffic, potential for accidents and conflicts with their families, employees, livestock and equipment on a daily basis as they attempt to continue their lives and livelihoods.
The two appraisals obtained by the county fell woefully short of placing a value on the impact to the owners' personal lives, their business and their land..
The county appraisals were $121,500 and $133,425 for approximately 25 acres.
But realistically, the county, state, town and the industry are creating immeasurable impacts on this family and their business.
We are not only purchasing land that was not for sale, but we are also purchasing a part of a business and imposing obstacles to its farming operation which will last forever.
When the appraised value was offered to the landowners, their response was, "we don't need or want a road and railroads which run through the heart of our property." Increased offers were made and rejected.
Negotiations appeared to be breaking down and the state was suggesting that if we were not going to proceed with this project, they would like to know so the money could be used on some other project. My staff suggested that I should consult with the landowners to see if there might be a middle ground for an agreement. I asked what it would take to make the deal.
The landowners expressed a feeling that since Lehigh Cement Co. was a substantial beneficiary, that company should substantially participate. Lehigh did participate by purchasing adjoining property which provides a partial realignment and reduction of the length of the new road.
At that point, the commissioners decided to increase our offer to the landowners.
It has been alleged that I told the landowners to hold out for $1 million. I did no such thing.
I never personally made a specific offer or committed the county to anything.
I reported my conversations with the landowners to the other commissioners, and we jointly discussed the negotiations.
Finally, after many hours of discussion and debate, a motion was made, seconded and approved by unanimous vote to meet a negotiated price of $850,000 for the county's participation in this project.
Alternatively, the county might have pursued condemnation in court. This process would have been time-consuming and very costly and it's outcome would have been uncertain.
Without a timely resolution of this matter, Carroll County might have lost $3.5 million from the state of Maryland.
Our county participation is now $850,000 rather than $1.5 million originally allocated.
Donald I. Dell
The writer is a Carrol County commissioner.
Article about dead boy was pure sensationalism
Why did The Sun find it necessary to run a front-page article about the tragic loss of the local 11-year-old boy on safari in Africa ("A deadly safari ends in a cry for answers," Sept. 17)? Was it just for sensational purposes?
Why did we all have to be exposed to the gory details involving the hyena attack on this boy? The details served only to disturb.
While my heart goes out to the family, I have to say that disbelief and anger were engendered in me as well by The Sun laying this story bare without sensitivity.
At risk of seeming callous, the story begs the question, who takes an 11-year old on safari and leaves him alone in a tent, knowing that hyenas are circling the camp?
The Sun's obituary for the boy was tasteful, sensitive and adequate ("Mark Garrity Shea, 11, loved science, sports," July 24). Why revisit the issue?
Elect Holt, Nevin to the school board
Unfortunately, my year and one-half on the county Board of Education has been, to say the least, a frustrating and eye-opening experience.
Being the lone board member constantly questioning the way the board functions, I see the need for significant change in the make-up and direction. This will occur only when the majority of the board is committed to making the needed reforms.
The days of a board rubber-stamping the superintendent's proposals with little or no discussion must end. So too must the board's tendency to put on blinders when it is aware of mismanagement of funds or other questionable initiatives by the school administration.
We need board members who will be open-minded and receptive to new ideas from other members as well as from the public.
And nothing is more important than the ability of board members to set clear, goals for our school system and channel the resources necessary to meet those goals.
At a time when public confidence in the leadership of our school system is at an all-time low, it is absolutely imperative that the voters in Carroll County elect two new board members, who are committed to meeting the public's highest expectations. Two individuals who stand ready to make such a commitment are Susan Holt and Stephen Nevin.
They are highly respected citizens whose long dedication to our community, especially to our children, is widely known.
They do their homework on the issues and take very clear, logical positions, based on the facts, not on suppositions or far-out theories. And they're not ones to yield to external pressures or be influenced by the changing political winds.
So if you're as tired as I am of hearing about all the fiascoes and abuses of power on the board of education -- and long for the day when you can once again read about the many accomplishments of our schools -- then be sure to join me in voting for Susan Holt and Stephen Nevin on Nov. 7.
Those are two votes you'll never have cause to regret.
The writer is a member of theCarroll County Board of Education.