Search continues for new Garrett County Economic Development director

OAKLAND — The search for a new Garrett County Department of Economic Development director continues. Chairman Paul Edwards announced during the Board of Garrett County Commissioners’ meeting last week they were close to finding a replacement for former director Alex McCoy, but plans have changed.

A local selection committee, composed of representatives from a wide range of groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, Garrett College, the Farm Bureau, and municipal governments, recently reviewed 12 applications and narrowed the list down to three potential candidates.

“The selection committee did make a recommendation to the commissioners, after a round of interviews, for the economic development director,” Edwards said. “However, after the interview process, that candidate was no longer interested in the position. So, the board has reopened the search and is committed to finding the best person for that job.”

Commissioner Jim Hinebaugh, a former economic director, has been “helping out” department staff members Kim Durst, Cheryl DeBerry, and Cindy Sharon in the interim, Edwards noted.

“The staff over there has really stepped up and is filling the gap quite nicely,” Edwards added.

County administrator Kevin Null said the directorship opening has been re-posted on major websites, including Garrett County government’s, garrettcounty.org, and the Maryland Association of Counties’ (MACo), mdcounties.org

Hinebaugh added that the commissioners would be looking for possible prospects while attending MACo’s annual summer conference, scheduled for Aug. 16-19 in Ocean City.

“Maybe there’s a number two or number three person in another economic development office somewhere who might be interested in taking this on, in terms of upward mobility,” he said. “We’re going to try to do some networking while we’re there, to see if we can dig up some candidates on an informal basis, rather than just relying on advertising.”

Hinebaugh indicated during the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce’s recent Business Before Hours event that the county was in no hurry to hire a new director.

“We’re going to be very deliberate about the way we do this,” he said. “We’re not going to hire someone just to fill the position. We can afford to do that because we have a great staff in Economic Development.”

The commissioners began their search for a new director shortly after McCoy submitted his resignation in late April of this year, after accepting the CEO position of the Greater Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

He was hired by the Garrett County commissioners in April 2015. He was previously vice president of economic development for the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce in Palatka, Florida, and executive director of the Worth County (Georgia) Economic Development Authority.

Staff writer Renee Shreve can be reached at 301-501-8394 or by email at rshreve@therepublicannews.com.

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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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