Commissioners hold public hearing on DCL water service boundaries

OAKLAND — The Garrett County commissioners and the Department of Public Works —Utilities Division held a public hearing Monday afternoon at the courthouse on water district boundary changes at Deep Creek Lake.

“We are proposing to change the Thayerville and McHenry water service boundaries to include a small section of Deep Creek Drive between the Rt. 219 bridge over Deep Creek Lake and Gravelly Run Road,” said Pat Hudnall, Utilities Division chief.

The county also wants to combine the two districts into one, which would be called the Deep Creek Lake Water Service Area.

Hudnall noted that ad valorem tax rates will be affected. McHenry customers are currently paying $.05 per $100 of assessed value on improved and unimproved property. For Thayerville, the cost is $.24 per $100 of assessed value.

“Once combined, the tax rate will be $.10 per $100 of assessed property value on improved and unimproved parcels across both service areas,” Hudnall said. “This would take effect in next year’s tax cycle.”

He indicated that combining the two systems, in part, was in preparation for the Hoyes Run Road project, which is two to three years from being constructed, and to provide an additional water source for McHenry.

“MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment) is going to view this as an alternative water source/supply for the McHenry system, should we run into issues with the Hoyes Run project down the road,” Hudnall said.

He stressed, however, that the new Deep Creek Lake Water Service Area would only be a possible backup for Hoyes Run, not a substitute for that project.

“It will only supplement what we need,” Hudnall said. “This won’t carry enough water to meet all of our demands in McHenry.”

Commissioner Paul Edwards indicated ad valorem rate changes, therefore, are inevitable.

Two people voiced their opinions at the hearing. Del. Wendell Beitzel asked that the county extend the proposed Deep Creek Lake Water Service Area boundary up to the intersection of Rt. 219 and Rt. 42. This would enable the Maryland State Police barrack and Northern Garrett Rescue Squad to connect to the system if they so desired.

“Please consider it,” Beitzel asked the commissioners.

McHenry water customer Robert Kelly reviewed the history of the original McHenry Water System expansion project. In 2011, he noted the ad valorem tax rate was expected to be between $.02 and $.04 per $100 of his assessed property.

“The residents were overwhelmingly opposed to the expansion of the system in 2011,” Kelly said, referring to a public hearing in which 200 people attended.

Kelly estimated that he is actually currently paying a $.13 ad valorem tax rate, or $717.47, a year. Under the new proposed rate, that would go up to $1,200 a year.

“We, the residents of McHenry, just get crucified,” he said about continual increases in water rates and other taxes. “It’s got to stop. There has to be innovate thinking to deal with this issue.”

He acknowledged that a $.02 to $.04 ad valorem rate was probably not realistic now. But he did suggest that a moratorium be placed on all Public Works projects until a financial study could be conducted by an independent company.

“I’m not opposed to this,” Kelly said about expanding the water system. “What I’m opposed to is my $717 going to a $1,200.”

He called conducting the independent study a “confidence builder.”

“I have no faith, and most people don’t have any faith, in the numbers thrown out, as you can see, by the Public Works department,” Kelly said.

The commissioners left the comment period open on the proposed McHenry and Thayerville water service boundary changes until Monday, Aug. 21. Maps of the areas are available for viewing online at garrettcounty.org.

The commissioners will hold their next public meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 22, at the Ryan’s Glade Community Center, Gorman, at 6 p.m.

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Maryland Heritage Area Grants to Boost Cultural Heritage Tourism in Garrett County: Projects Receive Funds from Maryland Historical Trust Heritage Program

Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA), a state heritage organization, awarded 50 matching grants totaling nearly $2.7 million to Maryland nonprofit organizations, local jurisdictions and tourism groups. The grants fund historic preservation, natural resource protection and educational programs in 13 state-designated Heritage Areas. By supporting capital projects and educational activities, the grants spawn renewed interest in Maryland culture from residents and visitors, boosting tourism-related jobs.
Three grant applications submitted by The Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area received funds. Jen Durben, Heritage Area & Groups Director said, “We had diverse applications from throughout our heritage area this year and we are excited to have three projects awarded in another round of very tough competition. More than 100 applications were submitted totaling over $5.6 million in requested funds. Garrett County received a total of $195,000 of the $2.7 million awarded. These grants will allow the recipients to create new resources and expand awareness of heritage here in Garrett County.”

Garrett County Chamber of Commerce is the official Management Entity for the Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area and provides the 1 to 1 match for the Management Grant. The Garrett County Heritage Area & Groups Director administers the Heritage Area Program and works with stakeholders by offering technical and grant assistance for heritage related initiatives that preserve valuable heritage resources and enhance tourism in the County.

Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area projects funded were:
· Highland Festival of Garrett County, Maryland, Inc. (Garrett County Celtic Festival) ($5,000) – PILOT Chautauqua Event: Celtic Roots
· Mayor and Town Council of Oakland, Maryland ($90,000) – Pedestrian Gateway
· Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area ($100,000) – Management Grant for management services of the certified heritage area with a goal to promote heritage tourism.

The Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area is a program of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce which supports heritage tourism in Garrett County through technical assistance and grant opportunities with a focus on heritage related initiatives that preserve valuable heritage resources and enhance tourism in the County. As a state certified heritage area, effort is made to create public and private partnerships to preserve historical, cultural and natural resources focusing on under-utilized resources fostering a greater sense of community pride.

The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce is the largest professional business association in the region with 600 members representing every industry in the community. The mission of the Chamber is to organize, support and represent Garrett County’s business community in advancing common interests and additionally to promote Garrett County’s hospitality and recreation industry by attracting visitors to the county through comprehensive marketing. The Garrett County Chamber also serves as the Destination Marketing Organization and Heritage Area Management entity for the County.

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Oakland named one of TripAdvisor’s ’15 Best Honeymoon Destinations’

The town of Oakland was among the destinations recently listed on TripAdvisor’s “15 Best Honeymoon Destinations in the U.S.”

When newlyweds wrote about their honeymoons on the site, the reviews were categorized to identify the highest-rated rentals.

“Our data science team has a proprietary algorithm that crawls every single rental review on our site, assigning certain themes to destinations based off how closely their reviews represent that theme,” explained Ashlee Centrella of TripAdvisor. “These 15 destinations have some of the strongest honeymoon/romance-related reviews across the whole USA.”

Travelers listed Oakland as a refreshing alternative to a tropical destination. Other top areas included in the article are locations in California, Florida, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands.

“If you don’t picture yourself escaping to a tropical paradise dotted with palm trees, you’re not alone,” the article states. “Reviewers highlight Oakland, a small town near Deep Creek Lake, as a refreshing alternative. In this designated Main Street Community, you’ll find antique stores instead of beachy souvenir shops and an old-fashioned soda fountain in place of seafood joints. But that’s not to say the vibe is anything less than laid-back. You’ll spend your days relaxing on the beach at Deep Creek Lake, kayaking from cove to cove, and hiking the best trails in the region. Nearby attractions include Wisp Resort, home to the Mountain Coaster (an alpine slide/roller coaster hybrid), and Adventure Sports Center International, which offers boating and whitewater sports on an Olympic-standard course.”

Michelle Ross, Oakland’s Main Street manager, noted that while she sometimes gets emails about these types of designations, she was pleased to receive this one from TripAdvisor.

“I was a little more excited about this one, because from what I’ve read, it was based on TripAdvisor reviews,” she explained. “So that means there were a lot of people on their site saying, ‘Hey, Oakland’s a great place to have a honeymoon.’”

Ross noted that she wouldn’t have necessarily thought of Oakland as a honeymoon destination.

“But once you start thinking about some of the things that they mentioned in their article – about going to the old soda fountain and all the hiking trails and all of the canoeing and all of the things that are available here — it’s a romantic place,” she said. “Sometimes you get such tunnel vision, and when other people are looking in your little box, it looks much different.”

According to Ross, the town of Oakland tries to promote this type of information as much as possible for visitors and residents alike.

“For people who live here, it gives them pride in where they live,” she said. “We do a lot for visitors, but we try to do a lot for residents too, because we want people who are here to be happy and stay here.”

The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce also received notification of the designation.

“We are delighted to be included in this list by TripAdvisor,” said Nicole Christian, president and CEO of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce. “We know we are a hot spot for honeymoons and destination weddings, so it is great to see a major travel company like TripAdvisor recognizing this as well. We hope visitors are able to join us in person to see all that Oakland, Deep Creek Lake and Garrett County have to offer.”

Sarah Duck, director of tourism and marketing for the chamber, noted that in surveys conducted of county visitors, small-town charm, beauty and serenity are all listed as reasons Garrett County appeals to them. She feels that this, coupled with all of the activities in the area, makes Garrett County the perfect fit for a honeymoon.

“Through the work of our heritage area and group’s director, the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce has been advertising the area as a wedding and honeymoon destination in wedding-specific publications, which has helped increase our exposure to the wedding and honeymoon market,” she said.

Centrella noted that the list is being promoted on TripAdvisor’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as through FlipKey’s social media accounts.

The full article can be viewed at: www.tripadvisor.com/VacationRentalsBlog/2017/07/14/best-honeymoon-destinations-in-the-us/.

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