Candidates sound off on growth in county

October 22, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Many of the candidates for Washington County Commissioners think managing growth is the county's main issue, but their ideas on how that should be done vary.

One candidate is a strong proponent of giving tax breaks to farmers to preserve agricultural land.

Another thinks a better effort at predicting and mapping out growth trends will help future planning and save tax dollars in the long run.

Some candidates were less specific than others about the details of how they would manage growth, while some said growth wasn't the top issue.

Five Republicans and five Democrats are challenging for five open commissioners seats in the Nov. 7 general election. The position pays $30,000 a year, and the commissioners president receives $3,000 more.


Kristin B. Aleshire

When asked what he thought the county's main issue is, Democrat Kristin B. Aleshire responded, "That's easy."

It's having adequate water and sewer capacity and being able to meet the needs of the systems, he said.

"If we don't address that, we won't have to worry about the other issues," said Aleshire, 31, of Hagerstown.

Dealing with water and sewer needs is the key to managing growth, Aleshire said.

He thinks the commissioners should update the county's water and sewer plan to address those needs.

The plan states it should be updated every three years, but the commissioners haven't updated it since 1992, Aleshire said.

Aleshire currently is a Hagerstown city councilman.

Terry Baker

Republican Terry Baker, 50, of Clear Spring, said managing growth was the county's main issue.

"Zero percent growth is not good, and 12 percent growth is way too high," Baker said.

In managing growth, Baker said the county should do so "in compliance with the guidelines set by federal and state regulations."

The commissioners also should work with residents and concerned groups regarding growth concerns, he said. He also criticized the county's rural rezoning plan.

"I think a lot of our continued growth problems are a result of the new rural rezoning law," Baker said.

He declined to elaborate or say whether he supported rural rezoning.

Baker currently is vice mayor of Clear Spring.

John F. Barr

Republican John F. Barr, 52, of Hagerstown, said the county over the years has been reactive when it comes to dealing with growth.

For example, Barr said the county has allowed companies to buy land at the corners of the busy U.S. 40 and Edgewood Drive intersection. He said this will make planned state, county and city improvements to that intersection difficult.

Barr said he wants the county to be proactive. The county's recent strengthening of growth regulations has helped with catching up with growth issues, he said.

"All in all, we're headed in the right direction," Barr said.

Donna L. Brightman

Democrat Donna L. Brightman, 54, of Knoxville, had similar concerns. She said managing growth was the main issue, but that water and sewer capacity is a part of that.

Like Aleshire, Brightman called for an updated water and sewer plan. She said water and sewer issues will drive growth management.

Balancing residential and commercial growth is needed, as well as having a database in place to track growth, including the number of planned homes.

J. Herbert Hardin

Public safety topped Democrat J. Herbert Hardin's list of concerns.

Hardin, 71, of Hagerstown, said the public expects to live in a secure community.

The new public safety communications system being installed for emergency responders will help, but Hardin said the county also needs a central booking facility for police officers.

County officials have said such a facility would speed up the arrest and booking process for officers, getting them back on the streets faster after making an arrest.

Police and rescue personnel also should have proper equipment and decent salaries, Hardin said.

Hardin served on the Washington County Board of Education from 1998 to 2002.

N. Linn Hendershot

Democrat N. Linn Hendershot, 61, of Hagerstown, said the county's primary concern is having an open-minded, diverse board of commissioners running the county.

"We need passionate people," he said. "If we end up with negative thinkers, this county can be in real big trouble."

The next board of commissioners will be dealing with several big changes, including a possible switch to charter home rule and the hirings of a county administrator and health officer, Hendershot said. As a result, it's important to have a forward-thinking board, he said.

Not only should the next commissioners be optimists, but their political affiliations should be balanced, Hendershot said.

"It's not healthy to have all Republicans or all Democrats," Hendershot said.

The current board consists of all Republicans.

The makeup of the board also is important because it will determine how well the commissioners manage other issues such as growth, Hendershot said.

Hendershot is a former Hagerstown city councilman.

James F. Kercheval

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