Woman rescued after losing way in state park

Deputies locate, medevac plucks hiker from Garrett forest

From Staff ReportsCumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — Maryland State Police’s Trooper 5 medevac helicopter played a key role in rescuing a woman and her dogs who became lost hiking in Swallow Falls State Park on Friday, according to the Garrett County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office responded to the woman’s distress call at 2 p.m., and located her after a foot search through the forest that lasted several hours, police said.

The woman was exhausted, disoriented and in need of medical attention, police said.

A deputy attempted to lead her out of the forest on foot, but because of the terrain and her condition that attempt was unsuccessful.

More here.

Liquor board requests Sunday sales referendum

Elaine Blaisdell

Cumberland Times-News

MCHENRY — Debbe Owston, administrator to the Garrett County Liquor Control Board, requested that local legislators support a referendum vote for Sunday liquor sales both on and off premises. Numerous establishments have on-premise sales for alcoholic beverages and can sell an alcoholic beverage with a meal on Sunday between 1 and 10 p.m., and the vote would allow other establishments to do the same.

“There are several precincts or election districts that can’t do that and they compete with the other establishments that can,” said Owston during a public prelegislative meeting Thursday evening at Garrett College. “We have had zero complaints about Sunday sales in a restaurant with a meal. This is the first time the liquor board has proposed a referendum vote.”

The vote would be for districts and precincts of a district, according to Owston.

The off-premises sales would allow package stores to sell take-out alcoholic beverages from 1 to 10 p.m.

Jim Laskaris, owner of Deep Creek Beverage; Gary Sisler, owner of Exxon in McHenry; and Richard Stuck, owner of the Exxon in Grantsville, Oakland Oil & Propane, and several other businesses spoke in favor of Sunday sales.

More here.

Group wants non-native species laws strengthened

Elaine BlaisdellCumberland Times-News

MCHENRY —  Barbara Beelar, executive director of local conservation group Friends of Deep Creek Lake, requested that the District 1 legislative delegation strengthen a law that gives the Maryland Department of Natural Resources control over transportation of non-native species.

“It’s basically to strengthen it. DNR is doing an excellent job with it; the problem is the current legislation doesn’t deal with the enforcement and compliance side of things,” said Beelar during the legislative meeting Thursday. “So we can’t effectively stop people from bringing invasive species into bodies of water in the state of Maryland.”

Hydrilla was discovered in two small coves Sept. 27 by DNR Resource Assessment Service staff as part of the subaquatic vegetation monitoring program. The weekend of Oct. 5 the DNR located more hydrilla.

“With hydrilla, now, in Deep Creek Lake it’s a really serious matter and we don’t want to have any more of that coming into the lake,” said Beelar.

It is likely that the hydrilla was attached to a boat or boat trailer.

Bruce Michael, director of the Resource Assessment Service, will provide an update on the hydrilla during a January meeting of the Deep Creek Lake Policy and Review Board, according to Beelar.

Also during the legislative meeting, Nicole Christian, president and CEO of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, requested legislation that would support transportation, security and communication during the Deep Creek 2014 International Canoe Federation Canoe Slalom World Championships.

“These are key areas to ensure that the event goes as planned, protects the athletes, the spectators and that it is a world-class event,”said Christian.

Next year’s world championship will take place Sept. 16-21 in McHenry at Adventure Sports Center International, the world’s only mountaintop whitewater course, which was built to host it.

More here.

U.S. Group Praises Garrett County Economy Efforts

OAKLAND, Md. (AP) — The National Association of Counties is citing Garrett County as a model of economic recovery.

The western Maryland county announced Thursday that it was cited in a recent report for rebounding from the loss of more than 800 manufacturing jobs when Bausch & Lomb Inc. closed a sunglasses plant near Oakland in 1996.

The county diversified its economy and attracted new jobs by focusing on tourism and agricultural products, including cheese and wine.

More here.

Garrett County commissioners vote to give school board $2.2 million

Elaine Blaisdell

Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — The Garrett County Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to conditionally give the board of education $2.2 million for fiscal 2015.

The conditions require that the school board discontinue all plans to close schools in fiscal 2015 and that the Garrett County Public School System remain an entity participant in the Garrett County Employee Health Care Coalition.

“It has been a primary objective of budget deliberations to develop a comprehensive funding model that will allow the Garrett County Public School System to keep all schools open,” said Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator. “The board of county commissioners is now at a point that this objective can be met.”

“It sounds like we will be able to continue to nurture grade-school students in their community schools, as was always our intention,” said Cynthia Downton, school board president.

More here.

School officials seek relief from budget cuts

Allegany, Garrett boards of education take list of nine priorities to delegation

Elaine Blaisdell

Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — Garrett and Allegany county boards of education met with members of the District 1 legislative delegation on Monday, asking the lawmakers to advocate for relief for both counties from the decline in state revenues due to the wealth formula and loss of student enrollment.

In the past three years, the delegation has been able to get some stoppage in the loss of state revenues, according to Sen. George Edwards. “We are trying to protect the coming year,” he said. “We fight to get what we can.”

The state isn’t going to fund the entire loss of revenue and the counties need to help out, Edward said, adding that the total funding number won’t be know until the dotted line is signed.

Allegany County government funds its school system at what is called maintenance of effort level, as required by the state of Maryland. The law requires a county to spend at least the same amount on a per pupil basis as the year before, so counties don’t go backwards in education funding. The state can withhold funding if counties don’t meet the requirement. Garrett County commissioners fund its school system above the maintenance of effort level.

Janet Wilson, superintendent of Garrett County schools, said if the Garrett commissioners had not funded schools above the maintenance of effort level, the school system’s finances would be even more dire than they are this year.

More here.

Garrett commissioners to decide school system’s fiscal 2015 funding

Elaine Blaisdell

Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — The Garrett County Commission will decide the fiscal 2015 appropriation for the county’s public school system during a Tuesday meeting.

During a meeting in November, board of education members pleaded with commissioners for a funding number and Commission Chairman Robert Gatto, ex-officio member on the board, made a motion to designate $2.2 million to the board for fiscal 2015 with the amount to be reduced if funding is secured from the state. The motion died from a lack of a second. Also at that meeting, Commissioner Jim Raley indicated that he would like to wait until the Tuesday meeting to give the board a number because at that time the amount of state funding will be known.

During a meeting in Finzel in November to discuss the proposed closure of Route 40 Elementary, an accountant confirmed that the county doesn’t have $2.2 million to help the school system.

“We are going to have to dip into our coffers,” said  Jeff Conner of Fike, Conner & Associates CPAs, who looked at the county’s financials. “We do have some rainy day funds but it’s only going to buy us a couple years.”

The Garrett County financial forecast for fiscal 2015 looks bleak because it is facing a projected loss of $5.4 million. A previous estimate of a $2.5 million projected loss of real property tax revenue has increased by $700,000, to $3.2 million, based on the revision of assessable base calculations, according to Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator.

More here.

Anglers tackling ice fishing on Deep Creek Lake

Michael A. Sawyers

Cumberland Times-News

MCHENRY — There are those who would look at the extended weather forecast for Garrett County and then shiver, complain and reach for the thermostat, but Boyd Church and Doug Oxford are not among them.

Church of Boonsboro and Oxford of Oakland are making sure their hooks are sharp, lines are not frayed and warm clothing is at the ready. Church and Oxford are ice fishermen and a blue norther blowing into Maryland’s westernmost county is good news indeed.

“I expect to be standing on the lake this weekend,” said Church. His optimism is not of the pie-in-the-sky variety. A veteran of high-country, hard water, Church understands the calamity that could take place if the ice cover is thinner than 4 inches. He fishes through the ice almost every weekend it is frozen. A second home in Swanton gives him a local base for his trips.

“I am trying to get Hallmark to change Valentine’s Day to sometime in August,” he said. “Then maybe I could fish every weekend in February.”

More here.

Garrett County faces bleak financial forecast

Elaine Blaisdell

Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — The Garrett County financial forecast for fiscal 2015 looks bleak due to the fact that the county is facing a total projected loss of $5.4 million, according to a news release.

A previous estimate of a $2.5 million projected loss of real property tax revenue has increased by $700,000, to $3.2 million, based on the revision of assessable base calculations, according to Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator. On Nov. 30, the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation produced valued assessable base calculations that confirmed the projected loss in real property tax revenue. This additional loss, coupled with the loss of $2.2 million in revenue for the Garrett County Public School System, equates to a total projected loss of $5.4 million.

The contraction of property tax revenue over the past three fiscal years equates to a loss of actual revenue of $2.8 million or 5.85 percent, according to a news release.

At this point there is nothing that can be done to alleviate the dire financial loss, according to Pagenhardt.

More here.

There are cheaper, safer alternatives to road salt [Letter]

8:15 a.m. EST, December 11, 2013

I was particularly pleased to read Gregory Wilburn’s letter advocating for the state to rein in the use of road salt (“Road salt is killing Garrett County,” Dec. 7).

Sellers of road salt have long promoted it as a “cheap” solution to melt snow and ice. However, independent studies have shown that government use actually costs about $1,200 per ton in infrastructure damage — in addition to the upfront expense and shipping costs.

The studies flagged deteriorating infrastructure, polluted water sources and contaminated soil — all at taxpayers expense. If researchers had also calculated consumer damage costs — expensive vehicle corrosion, destroyed footwear, deaths to dogs — the amount would be even higher.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/readersrespond/bs-ed-road-salt-20131210,0,6829653.story#ixzz2vJ8YwqaQ