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House OKs solar bill, finishes budget

General Assembly wraps up at midnight today
BRIAN WITTE
Associated Press – Cumberland Times

— ANNAPOLIS — Maryland utilities would have to buy more power from solar energy sources under a bill the state’s House of Delegates approved Saturday, but lawmakers still have to work out differences before the bill is final.

House and Senate lawmakers disagree on how much solar energy utilities should be required to buy and the amount of money they would pay for not complying. The House version approved Saturday takes a more modest approach.

Both bills would increase the cost of citizens’ electricity bills — though only by pennies a month in the next few years. The House bill is less expensive for taxpayers. It would increase residential electricity bills by an estimated 5 cents per month next year and 66 cents per month for the average commercial ratepayer. The amount goes up each year, resulting in an increase of 77 cents per month for residents and $9.57 for commercial ratepayers in 2016.

The Senate version would cost more. The cost added to an electric bill would grow from 5 cents per month next year to $1.38 in 2016 for residential ratepayers, compared to 66 cents a month next year to $17.23 in 2016 for commercial ratepayers.

Supporters say the bill, which passed on a vote of 109-31 Saturday, will help create jobs in solar energy while also protecting the environment by encouraging more of a shift to renewable energy.

“It’s a pro-jobs vote, and it certainly falls in line with the many good incentives and initiatives that we have taken, quite honestly, that began at the end of the last administration and throughout this administration that are good for the environment,” said Delegate Brian McHale, D-Baltimore.

But opponents said it would only make already high electric bills even more costly, and they disputed the notion that it would create jobs.

“It makes life harder for U.S. manufacturing companies be-cause it makes our products more expensive than products being made in other countries,” said Delegate Nicholaus Kipke, R-Anne Arundel.

Complying with the bills would cost suppliers $185 million through 2016 under the House bill while the costs under the Senate proposal would be $1.2 billion through 2026.

The debate came on a rare Saturday session for both the House and Senate as the Legislature caught up on work while preparing to adjourn Monday at midnight.

The Maryland General Assembly also wrapped up work on the state’s $13.2 billion operating budget after the House voted 105-34 to approve changes made by House and Senate negotiators in a conference committee. The Senate already has signed off on the changes.

The fiscal year 2011 budget relies on a mix of cuts, one-time spending transfers from reserve accounts and federal stimulus money to close a $2 billion gap.

Democratic supporters of the plan say the budget responsibly reduces spending while protecting critical investments in education, and they point out that the economy appears to be stabilizing. Republican critics say lawmakers didn’t cut enough and are paving the way for tax increases next year when federal stimulus money runs out.

Also on Saturday the Senate passed legislation that would add special coding to sex offenders’ driver’s licenses, something lawmakers say will help officials keep tabs on them. Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester, who sponsored the amendment, says it would alert police to ask more questions if they stop a registered sex offender with a child. The House still has to approve the legislation. Maryland senators also voted to legalize medical marijuana, but the measure is not expected to pass the House of Delegates.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Pets in parks – Deep Creek Lake, New Germany State Park

They’ll now be welcome in more places
Cumberland Times-News

— You might not be able to drink a beer or something stronger in Maryland’s state parks and forests, but beginning today you will be able to take your pets for a visit to the outdoors.

Maryland’s Park Service has revised its pet policy for visitors at parks that include Dan’s Mountain, Deep Creek Lake and New Germany.

With the exception of swimming beaches, they already were allowed in most areas of Rocky Gap, Big Run, Swallow Falls and Casselman River Bridge state parks.

The changes involve:

• Dan’s Mountain — Pets allowed with exception of weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

• Deep Creek Lake — Pets allowed in boat ramp area to board vessels; in Discovery Center parking areas to access trails; to swim from shoreline in all areas except swimming beach, docks or fishing piers. From Labor Day to Memorial Day weekend, pets allowed in day-use areas and lake except for swimming beach.

• New Germany — Pets allowed in Pines camp loop and on trails except during ski season. From Labor Day to Memorial Day weekend, pets allowed in day-use areas and lake except for swimming beach.

The changes came about because of comments the park service began accepting from the public last October.

We sometimes believe that of our government and its agencies aren’t responsive to our wishes, but here’s an example that they do listen to us now and then.

For more information, log on to http://www.dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/pets2.asp

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Ramp picking near Lost Lands, Potomac State Forest

A Garrett County tradition is born. For the last two years, we have had started a tradition of picking ramps, which is basically a (really) smelly wild onion. My late grandfather LOVED them, and I always heard the stories of how he wouldn’t be allowed back in the house for at least 2 days after he ate them. They stick with you, basically. Bad. The smell is so strong, that you will even sweat ramps. He used to love to pick a mess of ramps and fry them with potatoes. When he passed away last year, we decided to take some of his beloved ramps to his grave and plant them there. What we planted last year didn’t make it through the elements (too much sun, perhaps) and winter weather, so we decided to pick some more. He has a special spot that he showed us near Lost Lands in the Potomac State Forest (family secret) and we went to look for ramps. It was Noah’s first ramp trip, and he liked everything about being in the woods and playing in the dirt with a mini shovel. He did not, however, enjoy about the smell. “P-U!” He wouldn’t even hold them for picture. So, here are a few shots of the next 3 generations of Ferguson’s left to carry on our new ramp picking tradition…until next spring! Also, enjoy some pf the pics of Lost Land Run in the Potomac State Forest:

From Mount Zion, Backbone Mountain, Lost Land Run, Ramps!

From Mount Zion, Backbone Mountain, Lost Land Run, Ramps!

From Mount Zion, Backbone Mountain, Lost Land Run, Ramps!

From Mount Zion, Backbone Mountain, Lost Land Run, Ramps!

From Mount Zion, Backbone Mountain, Lost Land Run, Ramps!

From Mount Zion, Backbone Mountain, Lost Land Run, Ramps!

From Mount Zion, Backbone Mountain, Lost Land Run, Ramps!

From Mount Zion, Backbone Mountain, Lost Land Run, Ramps!

From Mount Zion, Backbone Mountain, Lost Land Run, Ramps!

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Maryland bans hand-held cell phone use while driving

Cory Galliher
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Maryland drivers who are pulled over for a traffic violation may find themselves facing additional charges if they were using a mobile phone while driving as a result of a bill that passed 125-14 in the House of Delegates on Friday.

The bill, which has been proposed repeatedly for years but failed to pass, will now be sent to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is expected to sign it into law.

The bill only barely made it past the Maryland Senate on a 24-23 vote in March.

“The bottom line is it’s an excellent bill,” said Delegate Kevin Kelly. “The problem is people are so engrossed in the conversation and holding the phone that, quite frankly, their attention is directed away from the primary operation of the vehicle.”

Senate Bill 321, which carries an Oct. 1 effective date, would make talking on a mobile phone while driving a secondary offense, meaning that an offender would have to be pulled over for some other violation in order to be charged. It imposes a $40 fine on first offenders and a $100 fine for second and subsequent offenses, neither of which causes points to be assessed against a driver’s license unless the offense contributes to an accident.

The court has the option of waiving the fine for first offenders and for those who provide proof that they have acquired a method of hands-free capability for their phone.

There are exceptions for using a mobile phone while stopped at a red light and in emergency situations. Law enforcement and emergency personnel acting within the scope of official duty would also be covered by exceptions.

Kelly said that when the bill was initially introduced 12 years ago, there was a larger amount of opposition toward it. “Twelve years ago when this was first proposed, there were hundreds of people who were going to protest the bill,” said Kelly. “The phones now have a comprehensive array of functions and that is contributing dramatically to driver distraction.

“All of us have witnessed the person who doesn’t go forward when the light changes because they’re involved in their conversation, who go through an intersection without stopping, or who are driving down the side of the road and hit the rumble strips,” added Kelly.

Trooper Robert Giffin at the Maryland State Police Cumberland barrack said it’s difficult to say whether there will be problems enforcing the legislation since it hasn’t yet been signed into law. “Until the law actually gets put in the books, they’re not going to address it too much with us,” said Giffin. “It’ll depend a lot on how it’s actually written when they put it in the transportation article and so forth.”

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, similar legislation exists in six states: California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington, along with Washington, D.C. and the Virgin Islands.

“You shouldn’t have to legislate common sense,” said Kelly. “In this case, we are, because we as a society have witnessed the ever-increasing dangers associated with people who are driving and talking on a cell phone.”

A bill that passed 43-4 in the Senate and 133-2 in the House in 2009 banned writing or sending text messages while driving. It was amended in 2010 to prohibit the reading of text messages as well.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Cherry Glade Rd. Project Awarded $600K ARC Grant

Cherry Glade Rd. Project Awarded $600K ARC Grant

Apr. 8, 2010

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has awarded a $600,000 grant to Garrett County to build a new access road between Garrett Highway and North Fourth Street in Oakland, U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin announced this morning.
“These federal funds will help keep Marylanders on the move, while spurring future development and bringing new jobs to Oakland,” Mikulski said.

The 250-foot Cherry Glade Access Road will be constructed at the former Garrett County Roads Department garage site, located between Garrett Highway and North Fourth Street. Local officials recently constructed a new garage at the county’s Public Works Center and opened up the old site for commercial use. So far, two companies have agreements with the county to operate there.

The county’s old garage/administration building will be demolished in the near future to make way for more businesses and the new road. The purpose of the road is to improve access from Garrett Highway to the new commercial site, ease congestion, spur future commercial development, and create new jobs.

Construction of the new road is expected to create approximately 50 jobs and leverage $3 million in private investment. The project will be administered by the Maryland State Highway Administration.

In addition to ARC funds, Garrett County will provide a $150,000 match toward the $750,000 project.

Read the rest of the article here.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Dove Center Brd. Announces Locale For New Facility

Dove Center Brd. Announces Locale For New Facility

Apr. 8, 2010

The Dove Center has announced the location for its planned new office and shelter complex in Oakland. The Dove Center is Garrett County’s independent non-profit agency formed in 1991 to advocate for and provide assistance to victims of domestic violence.
The Dove Center board of directors acquired property for the new complex from Dr. David Tuel, located behind his professional office building just off Memorial Drive in Oakland. Tuel and his wife Dorothy, who serves as chairperson of the Dove Center board of directors, transferred the property for half of its appraised value and committed to buy it back at cost should the project not come to fruition.

Architectural design and preparatory site work will be completed soon, according to Heather Hanline, center director. The complex will provide expanded temporary residential quarters for victims, as well as staff offices and a counseling center.

The Dove Center has begun Phase II of its capital campaign to raise enough money to begin construction.

“Once again we have applied for Community Development Block Grant funding for the project,” Hanline said. “Not already owning ‘shovel-ready’ property was one of the reasons our application was turned down last year. CDBG administrators also advised that we need more local support and cash on hand to guarantee the facility will be fully completed in a timely manner.”

Read the rest of the article here.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Constellation Energy Completes Acquisition Of Criterion Wind Project in Western Maryland

Constellation Energy Completes Acquisition Of Criterion Wind Project in Western Maryland

Apr. 8, 2010

Constellation Energy announced yesterday that it has closed its agreement with Clipper Windpower Inc. to acquire the Criterion wind project on Backbone Mountain in Garrett County and to purchase 28 Clipper Liberty 2.5-megawatt wind turbines for the project.

The 70-megwatt project will be developed, constructed, owned, and operated by the Baltimore-based Constellation Energy. Kathleen W. Hyle, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Constellation Energy, estimates that up to 125 new jobs will be created during peak construction. She said that commercial operation of the wind energy facility is anticipated by year-end.

“Maryland’s clean energy goals are among the most ambitious in the nation, and we’re committed to working with the state to achieve them by investing in an array of solar, wind, biomass, and other sustainable energy projects,” said Hyle. “The market for clean energy products and services is growing rapidly in Maryland and across competitive energy markets nationwide. Investments in sustainable energy sources improve the environment by reducing carbon emissions, spur much-needed job growth, and allow us to broaden our clean-energy product offerings for customers.”

Hyle said that Constellation Energy intends to complete the local project “in an environmentally responsible manner, with special attention to avoid, minimize, and mitigate any potential wildlife impacts from the project.”

She added that the company will continue to work with state and federal agencies as part of this effort and plans to apply for an “incidental take” permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Read the rest of the article here.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

GC Officials, Road Workers Agree: No Increase In Pay Check Next Year

GC Officials, Road Workers Agree: No Increase In Pay Check Next Year

Apr. 8, 2010

Garrett County Roads Department crews will not see an increase in their pay checks in the new fiscal year. Local members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) were to receive a four percent raise in FY 2011, but, by a majority vote, they agreed to defer that until next year.

“This is pretty monumental,” county administrator Monty Pagenhardt said about the group’s willingness to forgo a raise for the sake of the county’s budget. “Because of what we wanted to work toward – continuing the excellent public service that we have – we needed to direct funds that would go toward increases that directly affect that purpose.”

The county and union members are in the third year of a five-year agreement. But because of economic conditions locally, statewide, and nationwide, the county began renegotiating that agreement about four months ago in preparation for its new budget year, which begins on July 1.

Pagenhardt said he went to AFSCME business representative Jim Bestpitch and explained the county’s financial dilemma.

“We’ve got a serious thing here,” Pagenhardt told him late last year, noting that the county would not be able to give pay raises to non-union employees or provide budget increases to county departments, Garrett College, the Board of Education, and other entities that receive local funding.

Read the rest of the article here.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Fun night at the Honi-Honi Bar

My Dad was in town from Florida, and we went to have a few beers at the Honi-Honi Bar last night. The house band was playing, featuring Jimmy Flanigan, from Boathouse. Mike Deligatti was there, as well as some other friends and musicians. My Dad is an AWESOME guitar player, great keyboarder and singer, and they invited him to play a few tunes. WOW. The bar was hopping in no time and they played all kinds of music. There was a really cool chemistry with all the guys playing, singing and jamming – everyone who was there was really blown away! I got some cool photos from my phone and I wanted to share:

Dad (left), Jimmy Flanigan (center) and Mike Deligatti (right). Lots of groovy tunes! Great time!



If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

March Real Estate Update – Deep Creek Lake & Garrett County. MD

The warm weather of March helped to improve the residential real estate market at Garrett County and Deep Creek Lake! There were a total of 16 sales (versus 14 for the same period last year). The stronger spring I spoke of last month has started to take shape. There are 44 contracts compared to last months 33.

7 of the 16 sales were considered Deep Creek Lake area properties, the rest appear to be primary residential.

The average list vs. ORIGINAL sales price was 69.5%, down 10% from last month. The biggest part of this number is the high listing numbers that sellers start with. I blogged about this last month, and it’s a national trend that is very real – EVERYTHING has adjusted in price. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but homes are not worth what they were 2-3 years ago. That’s a HUGE reason why some properties won’t sell – they are overpriced.

The ADJUSTED list vs sale price is 90% – up from last month. Once the market reacts and adjusts to prices & competition, the Realtors who assist in pricing property can adjust the asking price of properties for sellers who are willing & able to react. This number is a very telling stat – it shows that we are starting to narrow in on the price points for the local real estate market.

The current number of active/for sale residential listings is 605 as of today. This is up from last month (575) and will continue to grow as the spring and summer continue. Slowly but surely, our absorption rates are normalizing.

Here are the statistical breakdowns:

Average Sale Price: $404,031 (last month)$309,200

Average Days on Market: 220/275 (last month 164/296) (days on market with current broker/total days on market)


If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350