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Overall, 2017 was a productive year for The Board of County Commissioners and county staff as we worked to address the needs of our community.2017 was a year of change for Allegany County Government. The County welcomed a new Director of Economic and Community Development, Jeffrey S. Barclay, and a new Director of Tourism, Ashli Workman. The Allegany County Commissioners also announced the selection of Brandon S. Butler as the next County Administrator.
FINANCIAL HIGHLIGHTSFor the seventh consecutive year, the County Commissioners reduced the real estate property tax by 1/10th of a cent by the adoption of the FY 2018 budget. Our Board's intent is to incrementally reduce this financial burden on Allegany County's property owners/taxpayers. Of the 24 jurisdictions in the State of Maryland, 14 had higher real estate property tax rates than Allegany County in FY 2017. Our Board continued to adopt and apply a conservative approach to fiscal matters, while is fulfilling its commitment to deliver core local government services in an efficient and equitable manner. A balanced budget was developed, passed, and implemented. Overall, Allegany County Government is financially sound. Our fund balance is intact and our debt affordability calculations remain on target. Allegany County's fund balance is to be a minimum of two months of operating expenses. Allegany County's operating expenses designated for debt repayment are to be a maximum of three million dollars per year. Our Board secured the Public Improvement Bond of 2017 for nine million dollars, 15 years, 2.867%. This will be used for a number of projects. Your Board strives to minimize all costs, small and large. This means being strategic and working to avoid one-time and on-going costs in all departments. The County successfully secured thousands of dollars of federal, state, and private sector grants to offset costs in 2017. The Finance Department was a national award winner for the 25th consecutive year. The Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting. It acknowledges the County's "spirit of full disclosure" to clearly communicate its financial position and demonstrates transparency. Nationally, only 29 percent of like-sized counties received this prestigious award.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGYAllegany County Government continued to invest in broadband infrastructure. In 2017 the County upgraded Allconet core networking capacity from 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps and upgraded management switching capacity to 1 Gbps. The County also invested in a WiFi access expansion project at the Allegany County Fairgrounds. This will serve the facilities and all individuals enjoying events there.
PUBLIC WORKSWater and SewerProviding clean and safe water to drink and use in everyday activities is an essential function of local government. The Utilities Division maintains 160 miles of water lines and 195 miles of sewer lines. The infrastructure required to provide public water and sewer services is complex and expensive. Allegany County Government operates five wastewater treatment plants, eight water pumping stations, 22 wastewater pumping stations, and has 11 water storage tanks. Two solar power projects were designed, installed, and became operational in Allegany County in 2017. The on-going operational expenses associated with wastewater treatment will be addressed as a result of these renewable energy initiatives supported by Allegany County Government. Countytaxpayers will, therefore, save money for years to come. Water lines were extended four and one-half miles to serve 141 households receiving public water for the first time. These households were located in Barrelville, Prince Albert/Sunnyside,Midlothian, and Cumberland. A new water main line was installed in the Cresaptown Water District nd the Wrights Crossing Pump Station, an extensive project, began.
FairgroundsThe Allegany County Fairgrounds booked 250 days of activities in 2017. This is truly a community center for the Tri-State Region. After a two-year hiatus, with the strong volunteer commitment of fans, motor sports returned to the Allegany County Fairgrounds.RecyclingAllegany County Government held a special household hazardous waste collection. Residents safely and legally disposed of 8.3 tons of materials. For the first time, this special collection accepted paint for reuse by artists and others
ECONOMIC AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENTRevisions of Allegany County Code Chapter 360 Part 4 Zoning (Code Home Rule Bill 2- 17, March 9, 2017) and 2017 Allegany County Zoning District Map (December 14, 2017) were adopted this past year. These two actions provided the County with the opportunity to merge the LaVale Zoning Regulationswith those of the County and to provide greater flexibility for future business development in suitable areas.Our Board took steps to purchase 250+/- acres of the former Barton Farm. The County is also taking steps now to increase its holdings at this location to support a mix of urban uses at this site. This is being done to complement the County's business park across Route 220 and to maximize the development potential of the largest parcel of undeveloped Priority Funding Area in the County. The Community Enhancement Program was leveraged in 2017. This program allowed for the rehabilitation of properties in Cumberland and one each in Barton, Frostburg, and Westernport. This program assists with blight removal and commercial revitalization. DelFest celebrated its 1Oth year in Allegany County and a new five-year contract was signed. County government extends its deepest appreciation to Del McCoury and the DelFest Foundation for significant and on-going contributions to our community.Overall, tourism continues to grow and be an important component of economic development activity. Specs Chemical Services, Inc., a company based in The Netherlands, signed a ten-year lease for the Burbridge Building in the North Branch Industrial Park. The company now has the entire 24,000 square foot building - an increase of 10,000 square feet. Specs first came to Allegany County in 2002. Specs provides chemical related services for pharmaceutical companies. Sierra Hygiene Products, LLC, a light manufacturing entity in the paper industry, came to Allegany County in 2007. Sierra Hygiene renewed a five-year lease in Frostburg Business Park in 2017. Hamilton Relay, based in Aurora, Nebraska, signed a new three-year lease extension with additional options for the One Science Park Building in the Frostburg Business Park. Hamilton Relay first came to Allegany County in 2007. This company is a leading telecommunications relay and captioned telephone services provider. A medical marijuana dispensary located in the City of Cumberland in 2017. A medical marijuana growing operation also located in Riverside Industrial Park. Manicorp, LLC, completed extensive renovations and began operations in the space formerly held by Biederlack of America. A number of small commercial projects also occurred throughout Allegany County last year. Private entrepreneurship sparkled in Allegany County in 2017. Allegany County's first farm craft beer brewery, 1812 Brewery, commenced operations. StoneBridge, an elegant events venue, completed a sold-out first full season.
EMERGENCY SERVICESOur Board designated five million dollars of bond funds in 2017 to purchase public safety communications equipment. This demonstrates understanding of and commitment to public safety. The Board of County Commissioners was asked to assume the responsibility for the operation of the Frostburg Area Ambulance Service. This merger with the Allegany County Department of Emergency Services was effective on July 1, 2017.
NOTEWORTHY ITEMSOur Board of County Commissioners would like to remember several noteworthy items in 2017. Every Allegany County resident is negatively affected, directly or indirectly, by the nationwide opioid epidemic. Many public and private entities are working together to tackle this crisis. It is important for Allegany County Government to continue to partner with other government agencies to address the implications of this crisis.
Our community noted the passing of three former Allegany County Commissioners, Arthur T. Bond, John J. Coyle, Sr., and Robert M. Hutcheson, Ill. These community leaders are warmly remembered for their steadfast commitment and devotion to the citizens of Allegany County. Allegany County saw the passing of The Honorable James S. Getty, Sr. Judge Getty served on the Circuit Court of Allegany County and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. He heard his last case at age 90. A native of Lonaconing, Judge Getty was respected by his peers as a brilliant jurist. The County also saw the passing of Lawrence J. Kelly, the longest serving State's Attorney for Allegany County. Kenneth Lee May was honored with an Encore for a Hero Ceremony for his years of volunteer serviceto the LaVale Volunteer Rescue Squad. He became an EMT in 1945.The Allegany County Opportunity Scholarship is meeting expectations. Local residents can pursue a variety of higher educational opportunities at Allegany College of Maryland and Frostburg State University. After their education is completed, many of these scholarship recipients are choosing to seek employment and remain in the Tri-State Region.
As we begin 2018, our Board wishes to affirm and emphasize its commitment and availability to all citizens and stakeholders. We appreciate your participation, value your viewpoints, and thank everyone for your support of and interest in Allegany County. We wish one and all a happy, healthy, safe, and prosperous new year.