Long Term Advisory Council presents its recommendations and findings to Board of Commissioners

Carroll County Times

Since Johns Hopkins futurist Jay Herson projected a possible 2047 version of Carroll County last year, the Long Term Advisory Council has been gathering its research to make recommendations to the Board of Carroll County Commissioners.

Those recommendations were presented at Carroll Community College on Tuesday, Nov. 27, after 18 months of research by the 15-member group — split into agriculture, arts and recreation, business, education, health, public safety and technology clusters — who were tasked with looking 30 years into the future. Recommendations were focused on general infrastructure, revitalizing Main Streets, and technological growth.

“What we have, I think, is a very informative and entertaining look into the future,” said Bruce Holstein, LTAC chair.

“Technology,” he said, “is the overarching theme.”

Agriculture

Carroll County Farm Bureau President David Brauning said the biggest issue for agriculture is the decline of farms and viability of farming — and that the priorities he’s identified are education, technology and infrastructure.

“At one time Carroll County represented the fourth-richest agricultural county in the United States of America back in the late ’30s and ’40s,” he said. “That has continually changed.”

In 1959, he said, there were 2,035 farms in Carroll County on about 225,000 acres. By 2012 almost half of those farms were gone, with only 1,092 farms across about 132,000 acres.

“Education for agriculture is extremely important today,” said Brauning. "In today’s society people want to know where their food comes from, how it’s grown. They want to know about animal welfare.”

Technology and infrastructure are also priorities in agriculture, he said, as there are robots employed just over the Frederick County line between Woodsboro and Walkersville, dairy farm labor is increasingly difficult to find, and machinery assists farmers who have to navigate large fields.

With 45 percent of farms earning $2,500 or less per year and only 46 farms with annual sales over $500,000 currently, Brauning said projections are that there will be no more than 10 to 15 large farm operations in Carroll County in the next 20 or 30 years.

“It’s either economize, get better, or unfortunately, get out,” he said.

Recreation and Arts

“Why would people want to live in Carroll County and what would bring more young families to the area?” asked Jane Sewell, executive director of the Union Mills Homestead. “What are young people looking for in a community and what will they want in the future?

“What is there to do in Carroll County?” she asked. “We want to keep this rural flavor but we need to move into the future and that's the tough one.”

The questions Sewell asked led into her group’s recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners regarding recreation and the arts in the future.

And she found the two main priorities were to develop a multi-sport complex and a large entertainment venue.

“There is a huge need for a multi-sport complex for swimming, ice skating, track and field,” said Sewell. “There must be a large indoor facility as well as several artificial turf fields outside. Carroll County must come up to speed with surrounding counties.”

She said the need for an amphitheater-type venue was just as great.

“There is a need for a large venue for events, with conveniences, hotels, shops,” she said. “This could be an amphitheater with capacity for at least 5,000 upwards, and it needs sufficient acreage for amenities and parking.”

The venue could be used for galas, fundraisers, lectures and more, said Sewell, and host programs for a diverse audience — people of all races, ages and sexes.

In addition to the top two prioritized items, Sewell said the group identified other needs that will grow in importance as Carroll approaches the year 2047: technology use in parks, museums and historic sites; improved transportation for the elderly, disabled and those without vehicles; and biking, hiking and walking trails to encourage physical activity in a time where sedentary lifestyles are increasingly prominent.

“Let’s keep in mind that in order to attract young families to this amazing community, we have to provide basic necessities, but also the amenities that will keep us in step with, but set us apart from, our neighboring counties.”

Business

Mike McMullin, president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, presented data he acquired through a survey he put together, with Launch Carroll and students from a business class at McDaniel College, for local business owners.

He said to be able to see what will happen in the next 30 years, he wanted to find what the people of Carroll County wanted now.

The survey found most business owners had their businesses in Carroll County — the majority were in Westminster — and that they had been there for at least 20 years. About 97 percent of the survey respondents said they planned on keeping their business in Carroll for the next 10 years.

“So we are doing something right in Carroll as it is,” McMullin said. “We have to think about how to do things better, and better and better.”

To the question asking how to best market Carroll County for businesses, the responses were: to promote its business-friendly atmosphere, high-quality education and its convenient location.

“How do you attract more millennials to Carroll?” he asked. “You want more young people here. Entertainment comes up time and time again — people like to do stuff. Housing, increase options for housing, especially in Main Street areas. Jobs and wages, more competitive jobs that pay more, that will bring them here too.”

McMullin said that revitalizing Main Streets, providing business incentives, and improving permitting processes were very important — as well as prioritizing high-speed internet connectivity, education, and public safety.

Education

“We have a real treasure in our school system here,” said Lynn Wheeler, the recently retired executive director of the Carroll County Public Library system.

In her presentation she said technology is an important component already in education, and that it will be of growing importance going forward — as most careers will include technology in some way, students and faculty utilize online learning and communication systems, and more online and mobile educational opportunities are created.

“Science and technology are ushering in a better future for education,” Wheeler said. “Education, though, will continue to increase as our lives are driven by technology. Rapidly changing technology means we have to keep people constantly in the role of lifelong learning, starting from birth really through death. Lifelong learning is a requirement for a successful life here.

“Educational technology holds the key to national strength and prosperity,” said Wheeler, “but at a cost. Global expenditure on education has exceeded $5 trillion, and is expected to grow at 8 percent every year.”

Health

Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer said his group’s top recommendations regarding health include collaboration among organizations in Carroll County, infrastructure for technological growth, and environmental considerations in a changed world.

“One of the biggest things we noted from planning data,” he said, “our population for 65-plus in 1990 to what’s projected in 2040 is going to almost quintuple.

“We believe local government needs to contribute to foster collaboration [among organizations] through task forces and advisory groups to work on large-scale projects that can affect long-term health of citizens of Carroll County,” said Singer. “If we don't address these factors and prevent chronic illness, we will overwhelm the health care system, and health care costs will continue to escalate, and access to treatment will become more difficult.”

Singer’s group also found infrastructure for technological growth will be pivotal — as there will be many more people in the health care system and a need for medical professionals to provide services from virtual meetings with clients, to in-home assistance and more.

Planning and encouraging physical activity for sedentary lifestyles for mental and physical health will be important.

“We foresee many people will have careers where they work remotely with less physical labor required,” Singer said. “[There will be an] increased need for social interaction to maintain mental health as contact with co-workers decreases from working remotely or teleworking.”

He said transportation for the elderly and disabled was also important to consider, as well as innovative solutions to meet water, wastewater and other infrastructure needs.

Public Safety

The public safety presentation was rooted in the present, and Dennis Brothers, former president of the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Service Association, said his three recommendations were based on needs to keep the system functioning, and perhaps update it for the modern day.

“Some of the things I'm going to ask for, we probably should have talked about many years ago,” Brothers said. “To move forward, we have to act to catch up on the past.

“Public safety affects everyone,” he said. “If you work, live, travel in Carroll County, we’re the only game in town. If you need police, fire paramedics, we are it. We take that very seriously and we try to improve public safety in all aspects because we want to be the best but … it’s driven by money.”

First, he said, the county needs a new jail with a higher capacity, because as it is there are some days where it approaches or surpasses its maximum number of occupants, 180 people.

He said a robust work release program is also important, as well as regionalized precincts and a facility for women.

Regarding the fire and EMS services, Brothers said, there are concerns with volunteers and getting centralized leadership for 14 different volunteer fire companies.

“If I have my whole stack of little red hats and passed them out to every one of you and said, ‘You can keep this and be part of our fire department, but I'm going to need some of your free time.’ How much of your free time could you really give me right now?” asked Brothers.

“Now I'm sure you're well aware, we don’t have a lot of free time,” he said. “I came into the volunteers in 1975, I took a 60-hour volunteer class, and then I was committed. I was counted on to respond every time the siren at that time would go off, and I would respond. But you're running a very small amount of calls; if I had to get out of bed two or three times in a year, that was unusual. But what do you do today?”

There are many more calls, he said, and commitment is not the same as it once was although he appreciates all that the current volunteers do.

Technology

The technology group’s research and recommendations embodied many of the concepts discussed by the other groups — and Kati Townsley, executive director of the Carroll County Tech Council, said they agreed technology was one of the overarching themes.

With megatrends like information technology; artificial intelligence; broadband infrastructure; robotics automation; medical technology; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; autonomous vehicles; drone technology; workforce skilled labor; collaborative work spaces, or co-working; the internet of things/everything; space exploration and the mission to Mars.

“[Technology] is now embedded in everything that we do,” Townsley said. “With 2047, it will be so integral everyone of all ages will be technologists.

“What will Carroll County look like in 2047?” she asked. “We don't know specifically in the technology sector, which is changing daily. What can Carroll County best do to prepare for it?”

Her top recommendations were to focus on broadband, collaborative work spaces and medical technology.

More information about LTAC’s research and the reports from each separate cluster group will be made available by request, and the commissioners are not obligated to take any recommendations from them.

Commissioners Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, and Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, were present at the meeting, as well as Commissioner-elect Christopher “Eric” Bouchat, who will be replacing Rothschild on the 61st Board of Carroll County Commissioners when he is seated next week.

Frazier thanked LTAC for the work it has done, and Rothschild said although not every recommendation could be implemented, some of them will be.

“You’ve given us a menu of possibilities,” he said, “and I’ve learned a lot from all of you.”

jennifer.turiano@carrollcountytimes.com

443-488-0369

twitter.com/jturianoCCT

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