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Aid needed in program on alcohol


Facing a $10,000 shortfall in funding for a program designed to curb underage drinking, the Carroll County commissioners decided yesterday to solicit local liquor retailers for contributions.

RAAM, Reducing the Availability of Alcohol to Minors, costs nearly $16,000 annually. The county's drug task force has agreed to contribute $3,000 to the program for fiscal 2002, which begins July 1, and the state has committed $3,000. The program is entering its second year.

"I would like to see a six-week solicitation, then the county could make a commitment based on what the need is at that time," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

"I would like the program to be self-supporting," added Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier.

She and Dell directed Robert A. "Max" Bair, special assistant to the commissioners, to coordinate with Junction Inc. - a substance-abuse prevention and treatment facility in Westminster - to learn whether the business community would contribute to RAAM's operating costs. Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge was not in the office yesterday.

The program is an effort among state police, the county liquor board, the county sheriff, the Board of Education, liquor retailers, the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, Westminster police and Junction Inc.

Since its inception in April of last year, police have made 69 arrests through the RAAM program, most of them for possession of alcohol by a person younger than 21. State police have called the program a success, noting no fatal accidents involving intoxicated drivers younger than 21 in the past year.

In addition to the county's efforts to curb underage drinking, the commissioners discussed their commitment to stem substance abuse and indicated a willingness to provide additional financial support to ACTIVE (Adults and Children Together Improving Values and Ethics) Alliance, a coalition to help children make sound decisions.

The alliance "is so important, and we've come so far, we don't want it to fall through the cracks now," Dell said. "This is a project that needs to be ongoing."

The commissioners have committed $50,000 to the alliance, which was formed in January. The money is used to pay the salaries of two program coordinators.

The board is considering whether it will support the coalition in its second year.

In other business, the commissioners were told that Carroll Transit, a public transportation system that operates 26 vehicles in the county, hopes to double ridership in two to three years with marketing and expanded service from Westminster to Sykesville and Owings Mills.

"We are the best-kept secret in Carroll County," said Neal Roop, executive director of Carroll Transit. "I want to change that. I think our potential ridership is just going to increase in the next 10 years" as baby boomers become senior citizens.

Frazier and Dell voiced concern about the impact Carroll Transit's success might have on private taxi companies.

"This ridership is in competition with taxicabs," Dell said. "The issue has always been, to me, what are we doing to private enterprise? Are we putting taxicabs out of business?"

Frazier suggested that Carroll Transit try to charge more to customers who can afford to pay more. The service costs $2 for every five miles traveled.

Roop told the commissioners that the majority of Carroll Transit customers are seniors who no longer drive and use the service to go to doctor appointments, senior centers or shopping malls. He said taxicabs have a distinct advantage over Carroll Transit - they can take passengers where they need to go on demand, and without making stops. Carroll Transit makes frequent stops, and most trips must be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance.

Carroll Transit has been providing service to Carroll residents since the early 1970s.

Under a contract with county officials, the private, nonprofit company is being paid $501,600 to provide service in fiscal 2001, which ends June 30.

Also yesterday, the commissioners voted to apply for a $40,000 grant that would pay for an assessment of streams in the watersheds of Piney Run and Liberty reservoirs. Funding for the study would be from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the state Department of Natural Resources.

County officials expect the study would take two years. It would analyze the health of streams to determine where problems might exist and what the county can do to remedy them.

However, the study would not require the commissioners to adopt suggested remedies. The commissioners hope to hear by the end of July whether they will receive the grant.

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