Shoop says county faces tough issues

December 27, 1998|By SCOTT BUTKI

During an interview this week, Washington County Administrator Rodney Shoop listed some of the issues he expects the Washington County Commissioners to address during their four-year term.

He also praised the new County Commissioners. In recent weeks, the commissioners have been receiving briefings from various department heads as they try to learn about county projects and issues.

Only Gregory I. Snook, a Republican, returned as a County Commissioner. Also sworn in on Dec. 1 was Bert L. Iseminger Jr., William J. Wivell, Paul L. Swartz and John L. Schnebly.

Shoop said he has been encouraging the commissioners not to try to learn everything immediately because it can be too overwhelming.


The commissioners have started, though, dealing with one of the more important county issues: the annual budget. Last week Budget and Finance Director Debra Bastian explained to the commissioners what they can expect as part of the annual budget process.

Another important decision coming before the County Commissioners in the near future will be what to do in response to a consultant's report on impact fees and related issues, Shoop said.

The study by Tischler and Associates of Bethesda, Md., analyzes the costs of development, including increased demands on roads, schools and such services as police protection. It also will make recommendations on ways to pay for development, including establishment of impact fees and special taxing districts.

The commissioners are not scheduled to discuss the report until the first week of February.

Throughout 1999 the county will be working hard on resolving any problems which could be caused by the so-called Millennium Bug, Shoop said. The county Millennium Committee has been looking at all county computer software and hardware to try to ensure that nothing surprising happens on Jan. 1, 2000, when some programs will think it is 1900.

Shoop estimated the cost of preparing for the year 2000 problem will be between $1 million and $1.5 million. Those expenses include purchasing and implementing new accounting software, he said.

Meanwhile, the county must take the lead in the push to create a University System of Maryland campus in Washington County, he said. That push may include the county making a financial commitment, but it is too early to say how much, he said.

An area campus would make the county more attractive to companies considering building in the region, he said. Supporters of the idea are hoping that someone will donate land for a campus building.

Other major county projects during the next four years, Shoop said, include:

* Revision of the county comprehensive plan. The plan lays the groundwork for Washington County over the next 20 years, especially land use, growth management policy, roads, sewers and sensitive environmental areas, he said.

The idea is that by planning ahead, the county can better meet the community's needs. The county is six months into the two-year project, he said.

* Continue supporting the transformation of Fort Ritchie into the Lakeside Corporate Center. Pen-Mar Development Corp. is leading the effort to turn the former military base into a high-technology business park and corporate training center.

Pen-Mar officials are currently holding discussions with a few companies about moving to Lakeside, but it is too soon for Shoop to reveal more information, he said.

* The county will compare some of its services and costs to other government agencies, and perhaps private businesses, to see how it compares, he said.

* Explore partnerships with the city of Hagerstown. Some city and county officials have mentioned possible projects and services that could be undertaken jointly, and the county will look into those ideas, he said.

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