The new Board of Carroll County Commissioners will hold its first weekly meeting Thursday, Dec. 6. Earlier this week the representatives for each district announced their top goals.
Interests in education and public safety are shared by all five commissioners, and were priorities for the last board as well — but other topics, like economic development and creating a charter government have garnered renewed attention by newcomers Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, and Ed Rothstein, R-District 5.
“Fire, police and education are the three areas that keep the county really strong,” Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, told the Times last week before his second term representing Hampstead and the region of Carroll County directly west of Reisterstown began.
When it comes to schools, Weaver said he wants to make sure communication is strong between the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education so that plans can be made with full awareness of priorities and financial restrictions.
“They need to focus on student achievement, and they do a good job of it,” Weaver said, “but here, again, they have all these other peripheral things that fall into it — like buildings, maintenance, and all that. We need to sit together and figure out where are we going with this, what do we need, and develop a plan we can work together on.”
And although education is one pillar on which that Carroll County is built, Weaver said at the swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday that public safety is equally as important.
“That is going to be a major focus in the next four years,” he said. “How are we going to help our 14 fire departments move forward and do a better job answering and going out to calls. It’s our duty to work with them and make some changes in the next few years.”
His recommendations for changes and improvements come after talk of more incentives for volunteers earlier this year and a presentation from the Long Term Advisory Council on the current struggles emergency services face in Carroll County.
One recommendation the LTAC made, to create regionalized precincts, Weaver said he supported greatly.
“I am concerned,” he told the Times. “We do need police presence, more than just a deputy on the streets sometimes. We’re going to need a southern and northern district.”
“So fire, police and education are my major focuses, and have been for the past four years,” said Weaver. “With that, I want collaboration, unity and problem solving.”
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, who spent 40 years in emergency services before turning to county government, also wants to focus on those issues.
He told the crowd Tuesday afternoon at the swearing-in ceremony that in his second term he wants to focus on the “three E’s”: education, economic growth and emergency services.
“The bottom line for me is making sure that our citizens have the best quality of life,” he said, “and the best place to live, work and play.
“We have made tremendous strides these past four years,” said Wantz, “and we’ve made it because we are able to work together on a common goal for our citizens.”
But he has more specific goals also — like increased access to high-speed internet in his district, Manchester and Taneytown, and construction of the new Charles Carroll Community Center.
“Because of a decision that was made [to close Charles Carroll Elementary School], I’ve got a very interesting project that I’m going to be bringing back to one of the areas of my district that I’m very proud of,” Wantz said, “and that’s a community center taking place of one of our schools.
“I embrace that community up there for the passion and the will that they have, and the way in which they have changed to embrace a project,” he said. “It’s always been a tough decision up there but that community has embraced it, and I very much look forward to bringing that together for the community in the next four years.”
One of Rothstein’s principal focuses this term, he said this week, will be economic and business development, and “growth where it makes sense” in his district, the Freedom Area.
“I look forward to working with [Economic Development Director] Jack Lyburn and his team in furthering our economic and business development, especially down in District 5, the Eldersburg-Sykesville area,” he said.
“It is a wonderful corridor we have going from east to west,” said Rothstein. “I’d like to be able to take advantage of that.”
He also mentioned his “listen, learn and lead” approach, and what he has already learned about his constituents’ concerns.
“Some of the issues that have become very clear are the traffic concerns on both [Md.] 32 and [Md.] 26,” Rothstein said, “along with growing businesses in the community, and focusing on executing the Freedom Plan by addressing the zoning issues and concerns.”
Rothstein said his work on dealing with veterans issues with the Veterans Advisory Council, and the opioid epidemic, are priorities as well.
Also a proponent of economic growth in the county with his background in business, the new District 4 commissioner, Eric Bouchat, wants to make sure the small towns he represents in the western and southwestern regions of Carroll County also experience that growth.
“We need economic development in our small towns,” he said. “New Windsor and Union Bridge, those little communities need our love. Those citizens are just as much citizens as the people of Westminster, Mount Airy, Hampstead.
“They need support,” Bouchat said, “and I’m determined to give it to them as we move on together to become even more prosperous of a county.”
His other goal, he said, will be to get the ball rolling on charter government.
“When I first moved to Carroll County in 2004, [Robert] Kittleman was the [state] senator, and he was a mentor to me,” Bouchat said after the swearing-in ceremony. “I didn’t know he was terminally diagnosed with cancer, but he took time to have breakfast with me.”
Bouchat said Kittleman gave him a list of tasks — on which were both becoming county commissioner and bringing charter government to Carroll.
“That is very important to me as a businessman,” he said. “I come to you with my experience as a businessman. A successful business needs to have a board of directors and chief executive officer.
“The five that legislate should not be executing the law,” said Bouchat, “and an individual that executes the law should not be legislating the law.”
Commissioners Frazier and Weaver have also discussed their support for developing a charter form of government, as long as it is written by the community and voted for by the community, independent of the Board of Commissioners.
“I also would like to see if we could put a committee together to look at charter government,” Frazier said, the last of the commissioners to speak at the swearing-in ceremony. “I think it’s about time to do that.
“I’d also like if that committee could get together and get true information on the charter so people could see what exactly the charter says, look at the charter, read the charter, see what’s out there,” he said.
He referred to the posting of signs in various parts of the county stating untrue comments about what a charter government would do to Carroll, for which he credits the underwhelming support the proposal received.
“Don’t rely on what other people say,” Frazier said. “I tried to push that the last four years; it wasn’t successful. But I think it’s time for Carroll County to have charter government.”
In addition to charter government, Frazier said he would like to double the number of solar fields the county has so that instead of saving $500,000 on electricity each year Carroll can save at least $1 million, ensure all residents have high-speed internet, make the solid waste fund self-sustaining and tackle the opioid epidemic with fresh perspectives.