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December 12, 2012

Legislators hear from educators, veterans and others during forum

CUMBERLAND — State legislators heard from veterans, teachers and other citizens during their prelegislative public forum Monday night at Allegany College of Maryland. About 50 people showed up for the event.

All four District 1 legislators were present, including Sen. George Edwards and Delegates Kevin Kelly, LeRoy Myers Jr. and Wendell Beitzel.

Don Nixon, the leader of the District 3 and Oldtown VFW, was concerned about fundraising for veterans organizations.

“The veterans organizations in these towns are hurting,” said Nixon. “We’re not looking for a handout, we want parity,” Nixon said.

A 2012 mandate allowing five gaming machines at VFW posts essentially allows a pull-tab type machine, Nixon said. What the organizations needed were slot machines like those available at casinos, and Nixon said, at Eastern Shore veterans organizations.

“People will play the slot machines, not the pull-tab machines,” Nixon said.

Nixon also asked legislators to pursue a higher take for the organizations out of the profits after payouts.

Teachers were happy with the support of the delegation for public education, said John Reuschlein, the first vice president of the Allegany County Teachers Association.

Classroom discipline was another area where teachers hoped local boards of education would have more control and not be “dictated” to by state school officials, Reuschlein said.

Sam White of the Western Maryland Sierra Club said he’d like to see a 1,000-foot setback from any homes for wind turbines. He encouraged legislators to support solar and geothermal heating for new school buildings.

Owen Dorsey opposed spending more money on the Footer Dye Works Building. Legislators said they’d only agree to more funding if a developer came forward with a signed commitment to develop the building.

“We don’t want to dump money into a rat hole,” said Myers. Myers, though, is optimistic a developer is seriously considering a commitment to develop the abandoned industrial building at Canal Place.

Legislators were thanked by leaders from Friends Aware Inc. and the Allegany County Animal Shelter Management Foundation.

“I am happy to report that all monies (from a 2012 bond bill) have been obligated ... Thank you for your help,” said Robert Godfrey of Friends Aware. Friends Aware is seeking $1.34 million in 2013.

“We have an architect and a plan and a fundraising committee in place... . We’re not going to let you down,” said Dave Williams of the foundation. The foundation is seeking $250,000 in a 2013 bond bill.

The forum lasted more than three and a half hours with the first dozen speakers eating up about two hours of that time. When it was about 9:30 p.m., Edwards urged the remaining speakers to be very concise and keep their comments short.

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