A former county commissioner is opposed.
Some public safety representatives are calling for a charter form of government for Frederick County. During a media briefing at the Chamber of Commerce Boardroom in Frederick on Tuesday, John Neary, the President of the Career Fire Fighters Association of Frederick County, and Deputy 1st Class Jim Harris, President of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 102, outlined why they want voters to approve charter government.
"For over 12 years, the county has been trying to figure out exactly what it's going to do in the future with the fire service," says Neary. "It's already gone through three boards, and the boards themselves are in trouble trying to figure which path to go." That includes such issues as where to locate fire stations, and what equipment each needs to have. At this time it's "stagnant, when it comes to fire and rescue," he says. "Because there's really nobody really willing to sit down and make a decision at the county commissioners because they're basically the five fire chiefs," and it's difficult to move forward to decide what sort of fire and rescue service should be provided for the county.
"With a county executive, at least that person is coming into the county with a vision and setting up that vision to move forward," says Neary.
If the voters decide in favor of the charter, the current county commissioner form of government would be replaced with an elected county council and county executive.
Dfc. Harris also wants to see a charter form of government adopted. "We need an elected executive at the helm whose responsible to the voters and can take much needed decisive action quickly, if necessary," he says.
Harris also points out that during the recent G8 Summit, Frederick County did not have a seat at the table when it comes to homeland security. "With a county executive, we would have that," he said.
But former county commissioner and state delegate Charles Jenkins doesn't want to move in the direction of charter government. He says each division directors would be appointed by the county executive, and they would tell that person what he or she wants to hear. "There's more of a freedom that the division directors currently enjoy," he says. "They all serve at the pleasure of the board, but they all know as well that it takes three votes to get them removed from their jobs. So I think they speak a little more freely," he says.
When Jenkins was commissioner, he said the most difficult decision he and his colleagues had to make was whether to build a waste to energy plant to burn trash. But each of the five commissioners was elected by the entire county. If charter is adopted, five of the seven council members would be elected from districts. "Can you image the sort of horse trading which would go with the district as proposed with this charter--what sort of horse trading that would go on--because nobody would have voted in their right mind to say 'okay, I'm going to put it in this district and I'll deal with it.'" he says.
Jenkins says he would have preferred code home rule, which voters rejected in 2002.
Whether to adopt a charter is part of several referendum questions on this year's general election ballot.
Frederick County voters turned down charter in 1991.