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Residents get ear of county for night

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Finksburg residents plan to question the county commissioners tonight about their stance on water resource management, traffic congestion and billboards.

Members of the Finksburg Planning Area Council have frequently accused the commissioners of being indifferent to the concerns of the nearly 18,000 people who live in the community just beyond Carroll's border with Baltimore County.

The 7 p.m. meeting at Sandy Mount United Methodist Church is their opportunity for a one-on-one discussion with the county leaders.

"Our hope is to get some information out on the topics they're interested in," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier, who grew up in Finksburg. "There's probably a lot of things they don't know about. It's hard to keep up on everything that's going on in the county."

Frazier and board president Julia Walsh Gouge plan to field questions with the assistance of county staff. Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he hopes to attend, but has promised to appear tonight at an awards ceremony for developmentally disabled students.

"I'm hoping there will be some give and take, so we can have a better working relationship," said Gouge, who said she had particular concerns about billboards along Route 140.

Both Frazier and Gouge said they plan to discuss the council's recent report card, which rated the commissioners in 13 areas of service. The county leaders received poor grades in 10 categories, including an F for open government and a D for responsiveness.

The scorecard focused on Finksburg, along Routes 140 and 91, and on broader issues in Carroll, such as schools, roads and planning.

Council President Donald Hoffman said the meeting would give residents who feel cut off from the commissioners a chance to voice their concerns. Since the board took office in December 1998, the commissioners have held 55 executive sessions - meetings that are held behind closed doors.

"We look forward to discussing the scorecard and ways the commissioners can improve their grades in the future," Hoffman said. "It's not our intention to grill anyone. We simply want an opportunity to address the shortcomings in their administration."

Since the Finksburg group issued the report card in June, Hoffman said county government has become more accessible. He noted Gouge's recent public meetings in South Carroll, and Frazier and Dell's attendance at the Freedom Area Citizens Council meeting last month.

"We are planning to make a presentation based on the report card," Frazier said. "We will probably address parks and open space, the watershed agreement, and the possibility of building a Finksburg library."

It's likely that questions will be raised on the cluster of billboards at the county's southern entry and congestion at the crossing of the two state highways.

About 44,000 vehicles pass through the intersection daily, said state highway officials. But improvements are "far down on the priority list with elected officials," said Mary Dietz, a regional planner for the state. The commissioners would have to push for funding.

Frazier said she believes the meeting will be positive, despite the failing grades the commissioners received on open government, zoning and environmental issues.

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