Mayors consider an area council
Board of towns' leaders would work with county; 'Enormous untapped talent'
By Mary Gail Hare, Sun Staff, August 22, 2002
Representatives of Carroll's eight towns, buoyed by their solidarity on growth management, are looking to form a council of town governments to work directly with the county commissioners on regional issues such as transportation, development and education.
The proposed countywide council would include mayors; town council members; school officials; and representatives from police, fire and emergency services agencies.
"We have enormous untapped talent on our councils, and we represent one-third of the county's population," said Westminster Mayor Kevin E. Dayhoff. "A council would allow us input above and beyond the quarterly mayors' meeting."
The commissioners meet with the mayors four times a year, usually late in the afternoon. Often, job demands - nearly all the mayors have careers outside of town hall - keep town leaders from these daytime meetings.
"What gets accomplished in those meetings is up to the mayors," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier. "The agendas are largely fixed by the towns. We use the meetings as an opportunity to share information. We are always open to their concerns."
Hampstead Councilman Haven Shoemaker Jr., president of the Carroll chapter of the Maryland Municipal League, said he would use the league's framework to expand the mayors' meetings into a county council. The sessions - which would include other county departments and would be held more often and in the evenings - would operate as an arm of the league.
"It is wiser to build on MML," said Westminster Councilman Damian L. Halstad. "This is an organization with clout, stature and credibility."
Dayhoff introduced the concept Monday as town officials gathered to formally endorse growth-control measures that call for limiting or curtailing building permits in areas coping with water shortages or with crowded schools and roads.
But town officials decided that the council issue would be diffused if they included it in a letter to commissioners meant to detail their growth-control proposals. They decided to wait until next month to tackle the proposal.
The monthlong delay will give the mayors time to discuss the issue with their town councils and gather support.
"I think everybody will go for it," said Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "But, if it is not effective, people will lose interest. The effectiveness of this council is more important [than] what it is."
Mount Airy Town Council President Frank Johnson developed the towns' six-point growth-management strategy, which insists that the county plan with the towns in mind. He won support for the strategy from the other seven towns and from the Finksburg and Freedom area residents councils.
"We brought the county together on this issue that affects everybody," Johnson said. "We demonstrated the importance of corroboration, cooperation and standing together. The next step is long-term problem-solving."
Johnson told his municipal colleagues the next step is a county council that would include the county staff.
"We are all part of the same county," Johnson said. "What happens in one part of this county does have an effect on other parts. There is much more of a connection and a need for ongoing communication, a problem-solving approach that brings everybody to the table."
Halstad said that the towns have not had the best relationship with the county commissioners and that selling them on the idea could be difficult. Several candidates for county commissioner are members of the municipal league and were present at the signing.
"We need a board of commissioners that is sensitive and willing to listen," Halstad said. "This organization could fly once we have that. We can get ahead of the growth curve and participate in policy planning."
Shoemaker said he will add the council proposal to the league's meeting in Union Bridge on Sept. 19.
"This is an idea that is definitely worth exploring," Shoemaker said.
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