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Lame ducks rushing to decide top issues

November 21, 2002

The lame ducks on Washington County's Board of Commissioners have a little more than a month left on their terms, but seem determined to deny their successors a shot at deciding any of the important questions the county faces. It may be legal, but it isn't right.

The latest move came when the three outgoing commissioners approved developer Manny Shaool's 595-unit Planned Unit Development off Mount Aetna Road, a two-lane rural road already overburdened with traffic.

Approval of the PUD, which allows increased density of development, came despite a 1,900-signature petition opposing it, a vote by the planning commission to deny it and even though the original zoning would still have allowed hundreds of single-family homes.

Would the next board have approved this PUD? It's doubtful.

And after saying this summer they were unsure about whether they'd employ a new Economic Development Director until after the election, the outgoing board approved the hiring of Tim Troxell for the post after a search that took little more than a month. Troxell was already acting director, so it's not like the post was vacant.

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Would the next board have hired him? Probably, because from all accounts, he's well-qualified. But this board didn't think enough the people's elected representatives to find out.

But the worst example of the outgoing group's lack of trust in those who'll replace them is their threat to file a suit over the City of Hagerstown's annexation policy.

The present commissioners, who've so far rejected mediation of the two-year-old dispute, are either trying to commit the next county board to expensive litigation or strong-arm the city council into a settlement that may not be in either government's best interests.

Should the next group of commissioners get a shot at settling this one? Absolutely. And the incoming group should tell those who are leaving that the voters didn't make a suggestion on Nov. 5. They made a decision and it's time to start abiding by it.

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