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Board to ask for consultant to help write home-rule charter

January 26, 2007|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A nine-member board given the task of writing a home rule charter plans to ask the Washington County Commissioners to hire a consultant to provide assistance to the board.

The charter would serve as the governing document for the county if voters approve the charter in an election.

The Charter Board for Washington County will discuss the consultant at a public meeting Feb. 1. The County Commissioners could vote on the matter at a Feb. 6 commissioners meeting, charter board Chairwoman Jeanne Singer said by phone Thursday.

Minutes for the charter board's Dec. 21 meeting state that Victor Tervala, author of "Home Rule Options in Maryland" has agreed to serve as the consultant.

The charter board plans to discuss what services Tervala would be asked to perform and the cost of those services, Singer said.

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She thought the cost to the county would be less than $12,000.

"We don't anticipate that we would be asking (the commissioners) for quite that much money," Singer said.

The consultant's role would include advising the board in writing the charter and helping to make the process understandable to residents, Singer said.

The charter board began meeting at the end of December. It plans to meet on the first and third Thursdays of the month through the 18-month charter process, Singer said.

During those 18 months, Singer said the charter board will visit municipalities throughout the county for "town hall" meetings to gather public feedback.

The charter board also plans to post information about charter home rule and the progress of the board on its Web site, www.charterboard.org. Residents may also contact charter board members through the site.

"We're hoping to get as much public input as we can get," Singer said.

A switch to charter home rule would lessen the commissioners' dependency on state legislators when creating some local laws, county officials have said.

The county would be governed according to what is written in the charter. County voters approve the charter, and have the ability to challenge some local laws by referendum.

The county hopes to have the charter ready so residents can vote on it in the November 2008 general election.

County voters have twice turned down charter home rule. Eighty percent of voters rejected charter home rule in 1977, and 55 percent voted against it in 1988, according to the board's minutes.




Public meeting



What: Charter Board for Washington County meeting that will include a discussion about hiring a consultant to help with writing a home rule charter.

When: Thursday, Feb. 1, 7 p.m.

Where: Washington County Administration Building, in the Commissioners' second-floor workroom, 100 W. Washington St., Hagerstown

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