Getting ‘lean’: Garrett commissioners look to trim county’s budget

Angie Brant

Cumberland Times-News The Cumberland Times-News Wed Aug 31, 2011, 11:04 PM EDT

OAKLAND — Garrett County commissioners have approved a plan they believe will help offset a projected revenue shortfall and increase the efficiency and productivity of county government.

In the next month, the commissioners will appoint nine individuals to serve on an Efficiency Task Force. The task force will implement “lean” practices in the county government.

The lean concept is a systemic approach that identifies problems and establishes corrective actions to increase efficiency in an organization.

Lean practices have been implemented in five counties throughout Maryland.

According to Gregan Crawford, chairman, this concept has been successful in the private sector for many years. He believes the implementation of the concept in Garrett County governmental operations will offer a better return on taxpayers’ dollars.

“This was the next logical step. We have looked at and completed many cost-saving initiatives and we believe this can only help our efforts,” Crawford added.

Crawford and his colleagues, Commissioners Bob Gatto and James Raley, unanimously approved the proposal at their August meeting. The next step will be to appoint members of the county work force and community to the panel.

The current proposal calls for the panel to be comprised of nine members, with five individuals from county government and four appointments from the commissioners.

However, based on the initial response to this proposal, the board of commissioners is considering the creation of subcommittees to allow greater involvement from both employees and residents.

The county has already enjoyed the results of lean practices following the elimination of 25 positions through attrition.

Through attrition, the county has seen a savings of $1.5 million and has been able to restructure and reorganize many departments, eliminating many cases of duplication of services.

Garrett County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt said the county’s employees have risen to the challenge and “continue to provide quality public service with less personnel and financial resources.”

The commissioners agree that the dedication of the employees will be key to the implementation and success of this endeavor.

“We are looking for solutions from the bottom up, solutions from the employees who perform the jobs. They know what works and what doesn’t,” Crawford said.

Raley said the county has seen success in shared services with the Garrett County Board of Education and sees the potential for even greater savings as different options are considered.

“We need to operate government like people operate their household budgets in this tough economy, by cutting back and makings changes,” Raley said. “It can be as simple as turning off lights when you leave a room or turning off computers. We are looking at every option that can help save the county money.”

Several Garrett County businesses meet each month to discuss improving efficiency in the private sectors. As guests of these meetings, Gatto said the board of commissioners have begun to look at the process in a different light, gaining insight from what is working in the private sector and how to adapt those practices to serve county government.

“Lean is not just about working harder, it is about working smarter,” Gatto said. “We are seeing how those companies are working to be more productive and it is giving us a fresh perspective on how we can do things.”

Gatto has said it is easy to raise taxes, but he feels a more efficient government should be the first priority as the county looks to the future.

“We’re trying to plan for the worst, but are hoping for the best,” Crawford added. “Raising taxes is the last resort.”

The commissioners’ next scheduled public meeting is Sept. 13, beginning at 9 a.m. The commissioners’ plan is to have Efficiency Task Force members in place by Oct. 1. Commissioners would like to see the task force hold an organizational meeting before Oct. 21 and compile a list of recommendations by Jan. 31, 2012.

Contact Angie Brant at abrant @times-news.com

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State Marcellus commission will meet in Garrett

Matthew Bieniek

Cumberland Times-News The Cumberland Times-News Mon Aug 29, 2011, 11:21 PM EDT

MCHENRY— The county with the most to gain, or lose — depending on who you talk to, on both the economic and environmental front, will host the next meeting of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.

The meeting is set for Oct. 7 in Room CE-224 (the Continuing Education Building Lecture Hall) at Garrett College in McHenry. The meeting is currently scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and run until around 4 p.m.

State Department of the Environment staff are preparing briefings on liability and revenue issues, said Brigid Kenney of the MDE. The meeting will be the second one for the committee following the initial meeting at Rocky Gap in early August. The meetings are open to the public.

Among Garrett County members on the shale commission are county commissioner James Raley, Sen. George Edwards, Shawn Bender of the Garrett County Farm Bureau and Paul Roberts, a Garrett County resident, citizen activist and owner of Deep Creek Cellars winery.

The liability and revenue issues brought a number of comments at the first meeting. The liability issues concern how the state can assure repairs to roads and land damaged by drilling as well as funding should a disaster occur, among other concerns, commission members said. Commission members are also trying to figure out the best mechanism for permitting costs and taxation and how tax revenue should be divvied up.

Chairman David Vanko, a dean in science and mathematics at Towson University, has said commission members would have a steep learning curve.

Some commission members have advocated a baseline scientific fact-gathering, possibly paid for by the natural gas industry. One problem has been that it’s impossible to tell if methane in the water of some Pennsylvania communities occurred naturally or because of gas fracking, mainly because no studies or measurements took place before fracking began.

The commission will present recommendations by the end of the year on legislation to tax drilling and establish liability standards.

Recommendations on best practices for natural gas exploration and production are to be delivered by Aug. 1, 2012, and a final report including environmental impacts of drilling is to be issued by Aug. 1, 2014.

Marcellus shale formations throughout the Eastern U.S. harbor large untapped natural gas resources.

The total value of the natural gas in Allegany County’s Marcellus shale could be close to $15.72 billion, with the average well earning $65,000 to $524,000 yearly, University of Maryland Extension staff has said.

In order to get the gas trapped in Marcellus shale to the surface chemicals, water and sand are pumped underground to break apart rock formations and free the gas.

Critics are concerned about the impact on groundwater and drinking water. The technique would likely be used if drilling began in Western Maryland.

A process used in Canada, though, uses carbon dioxide gas, which is believed to have less significant environmental impact.

Vanko has said he hopes consensus can be reached on most of the issues the committee is expected to review.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com

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Gas not the only factor in Labor Day plans

By CALEB CALHOUN

caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com

5:01 p.m. EDT, August 31, 2011

With gas prices lower now than they were in July and Labor Day approaching, area residents Wednesday talked about costs, crowds, congestion and even crime shaping their plans to travel over the holiday weekend.

Dick Gaylor of Boonsboro said that he planned to stay home over the weekend because gas is still too high for him to travel.

“I have a camper, and I can’t afford to travel with it like I used to because gas is so high,” he said. “Even though the prices have gotten a little better, it’s still hard when my camper is only getting about 10 miles to the gallon.”

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Commissioners Hold Hearings To Prepare For Fiscal Year 2013


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Aug. 25, 2011

The Garrett County commissioners are already preparing for the Fiscal Year 2013 budget and beyond, though FY 2012 is less than 2 months old. They held five brief public hearings Tuesday afternoon on proposed increases for recordation, admissions and amusement, hotel rental, title/leasehold interest transfers, and overdue property taxes.

“I don’t want you to believe that it’s a done deal,” Commissioner Jim Raley said about raising taxes. “I want you to know that we’re here to listen.”

About 30 people attended the hearings, primarily members of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce.

Commission chair Gregan Crawford stressed the hearings were mainly to garner information and to prepare for the future, especially the General Assembly session in January 2012. Three of the five taxes would require legislation in order for the commissioners to be able to increase them, if needed, in the future.

“2013 will probably be a far greater challenge to the county, budgetwise, than 2012 was,” Crawford said.

He indicated that the county may see a drop in property assessments, there may be a shift in teacher pension obligation from the state to the county, and there will be less state funding for education. He noted that the county’s capital projects and employee roster have already been greatly reduced.

“We’re trying to plan for the worst, but are hoping for the best,” Crawford said. “I don’t know whether we’re going to change any of the rates or not, but adjusting tax rates is never popular, especially in recessionary times. I’m still not convinced it’s the correct pathway at this point. Raising taxes should only be as the last resort.”

He added that it is hard to ask people to pay more taxes when the county needs to continue to look internally to see what it can do to raise revenue and trim expenses.

With that in mind, the commissioners will form an Efficiency Task Force to find ways to save money, yet maintain services.

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PlanMaryland for Dummies: What Is It, Why Do I Care?

By Kym Byrnes

Over the next 20 years, there will be nearly 1 million more people, over 400,000 additional households and more than 600,000 new jobs in Maryland, according to the PlanMarylandwebsite.

PlanMaryland is the state’s first plan for sustainable growth and development. It will emphasize planning that encourages Maryland residents to be more efficient and less wasteful of valuable resources, according to thePlanMaryland website.

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County United Way to recognize contributors

The Cumberland Times-News Sun Aug 28, 2011, 10:39 PM EDT

FROSTBURG — County United Way will host the Annual Community Caring Awards and campaign kickoff on Wednesday, an event that will honor a number of local individuals and businesses. The event will be held at Lane Center at Frostburg State University.

Pam Jan, president of the board of directors of County United Way, has announced this year’s award recipients, whose contributions will be recognized at the kickoff event.

Allegany County: Kathy Getty, regional president for Susquehanna Bank, co-chair of the annual campaign and past president of the CUW board; and CSX Transportation, long-standing corporate and employee supporter of United Way and special events.

Garrett County: Commissioner Ernie Gregg, immediate past chair of the executive committee and board; and Garrett Partnership for Children and Families, for being a pioneer organization in collaborating to provide community impact services with other organizations.

Hampshire County: Angela McQuaid, volunteer teen-court coordinator and co-chair of this year’s United Way campaign, and the Hampshire Wellness Center, for being the host of many health initiatives throughout the year.

Mineral County: Gary Wilson, past chair of the executive committee, former campaign chair and retired CEO of Burlington United Methodist Family Services, and Dominion Energy, corporate and employee supporter of United Way and special events.

In order for an individual to be nominated for this award, the person must reside in the home county and demonstrate a long-time commitment to volunteering and donating to the United Way and/or community partners. The business must meet the same criteria, in addition to encouraging workers to support the United Way by suggesting volunteer opportunities and/or conducting an employee campaign for contributions through payroll deduction.

The kickoff event will feature music by the Mountain Ridge Jazz Band, under the direction of David Kauffman. Aramark will prepare the menu. The awards were designed by Simon Pearce.

For reservations, contact the County United Way at 301-722-2700.

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Commissioners To Form Task Force To Begin "Lean" Government Plan


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Aug. 25, 2011

The Garrett County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to form an Efficiency Task Force that will seek to implement the concept and practices of a “lean” county government.

During their public meeting on Tuesday, Chairman Gregan Crawford spoke about the pending revenue shortfall that Garrett County government is projecting for the next three- to five-year budget cycles.

County administrator Monty Pagenhardt presented a statistical and projected revenue/expenditure outline. He noted that the county’s budget has decreased from $100 million in recent years down to $73 million. In addition, the county’s employee roster has decreased by 20 percent.

Crawford then proposed that the Board of Garrett County Commissioners create the task force.

“Lean seeks continuous improvement within an organization and is facilitated by a systematic approach to identify problems and achieving efficient solutions that in turn create better outcomes for employees and the constituents that they serve,” Pagenhardt explained Wednesday in a press release.

Crawford proposed nominating a committee composed of nine members: five from county government and four appointed by the commissioners. He suggested that the committee by appointed and organized by Oct. 1, that its first meeting take place no later than Oct. 21, and that its initial recommendations be presented to the commissioners by Jan. 31, 2012.

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Former Southern Standout Up For NCAA Woman Of The Year


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One time Southern High School standout Sarah Stephens, who became an All-American at Frostburg State University, is among the top 30 honorees for the 2011 NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

The NCAA?Woman of the Year award honors senior student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in academic achievement, athletic excellence, service, and leadership.

Stephens, a star dual-sport athlete (volleyball and tennis) for FSU, made the top 30 after the NCAA selected her from among 141 conference nominations. She is one of 10 Division III representatives. The 30 finalists are composed of 10 student-athletes from each NCAA division.

In the next round of selections, nine finalists, three from each division, will be chosen from the top 30 by the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics and all 30 student-athletes will be honored at an awards dinner on Sunday, Oct. 16, in Indianapolis. The NCAA will announce the three finalists in September prior to the awards dinner.

Stephens graduated from FSU with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She achieved a 3.96 cumulative grade-point average and was on the FSU dean’s list for eight consecutive semesters. She was also named a College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-American last fall and was inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society in 2009.

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Snow Will Blow

Snow will blow once again this winter at the Wisp Ski Resort, a guarantee expressed this week by Karen Myers, a co-owner of the resort and president of Recreational Industries Inc. She made that promise in spite of the fact that the land development corporation that is responsible for the Lodestone Golf Course and home sites atop Marsh Mountain has been slapped with a judgment from BB&T, the provider of the loan for the project. Myers and the other owners are working with attorneys and consultants to persuade the financial institution to agree to a loan restructuring, but in the meantime she says that it will be business as usual at the Wisp this winter. “We plan to be making snow in less than 90 days,” Myers said, “and hope to open the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 25).” She added that the resort has already sold a record number of season passes for the 2011-12 season and is “enjoying its best summer ever.” See story for details. Photo by John McEwen.

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Foreclosure sales remain major market segment in Maryland

Foreclosure sales remain major market segment in Maryland

Average discount is more than 40 percent

by C. Benjamin Ford, Staff Writer More News

About 23.5 percent of all homes sold in Maryland in the second quarter were in some stage of foreclosure, down from 30.6 percent in the first quarter but up from 17.6 percent in the prior-year quarter.

There were 3,866 foreclosure sales in the state in the second quarter, according to new data from RealtyTrac of Irvine, Calif.

More than one-third of those sales were in Prince George’s County, where 40.1 percent of all home sales involved a foreclosed property….

…Those prices varied wildly across the state, from an average county low of $62,099 in Garrett County to a high of $301,979 in Howard County.

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