In his first meeting with the Carroll commissioners as mayor of Westminster, Kevin Dayhoff pressed yesterday for a dialogue on key issues, such as economic development and funding for the local fire department.
"This is a new administration for the city of Westminster," said Dayhoff, who was elected two weeks ago. "We are looking forward to establishing a good, strong working relationship - a dialogue - with the commissioners."
Dayhoff and the Westminster Common Council met with the commissioners last night and discussed the city's policy on extending water and sewer service to area businesses, the needs of the Westminster fire department and the future of Route 27, which many see as a gateway to the city.
"In a county that's growing as ours is, certain areas have a tremendous need for emergency services, while others don't have quite as much need," said Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro. "Perhaps it is time for the county to look at how it is providing funding to the various departments."
Each year, the three-member Board of Commissioners gives the county Volunteer Firemen's Association a set amount of money, which the association then distributes among the county's 14 fire departments.
In fiscal 2002, which begins July 1, the association will receive nearly $5.2 million from county coffers, up from $4.9 million this year. It is not yet known how much of that money will be directed to the Westminster fire department. In addition to county dollars, Westminster city officials voted May 14 to give the city fire department $150,000 in fiscal 2002, up from $130,000 this year.
Pecoraro suggested a committee study the way county dollars are distributed by the association, an idea the commissioners didn't embrace.
"I would suggest that you contact the fire association if you have concerns about the way they're distributing the funds," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who noted that county law prohibits the commissioners from dictating how the association spends its money.
In addition to emergency services, the commissioners and city officials spoke at length about the need for commercial and industrial development within the city limits and around Westminster.
Dayhoff made it clear that the city expects to annex properties that request water and sewer service so that Westminster can collect tax on the land: "I think there should be close coordination between the city and the county, so that companies understand that whenever possible, if a company wants water and sewer service from the city, it will be annexed."
In cases where a property is not contiguous with city limits and cannot be annexed by Westminster, council member Roy L. Chiavacci suggested the county adopt a formula for revenue sharing.
County Economic Development Director Jack Lyburn, who accompanied the commissioners last night, agreed to work with the city on this and other development issues, such as the future of TownMall of Westminster and the revitalization of the Route 27 corridor, which is surrounded by city and county land.
'A wonderful gateway'
"Our vision of Route 27 is a wonderful gateway," Dayhoff said. "We ought to look at developing it in a pleasing way that funnels traffic from Route 140 right into downtown Westminster."
Dayhoff and members of the Common Council also expressed support for TownMall. Council President Damian L. Halstad said the city would be willing to provide zoning variances to improve parking at the 500,000-square-foot mall or to allow developers to build a second story. He also suggested the city would support the mall in a quest for state dollars.
In other business, council member Suzanne P. Albert told the commissioners that there have been speeding problems reported along Ridge Road, near New Windsor Road, on the city's eastern boundary and urged a joint solution to the problem. The commissioners directed county staff to work with city officials and find an effective remedy.