Cumberland Times-News

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January 28, 2014

Mayor wants council in on Canal Place meetings

CUMBERLAND — Mayor Brian Grim said in an interview following Tuesday’s regular bi-weekly meeting of the City Council that he is asking that all four members of the council be present at upcoming meetings surrounding the future of Canal Place.

“I’m only one of five votes. Therefore, I’m requesting that the full City Council attend the meetings,” said Grim.

Grim said that he and the council have a “whole bunch” of ideas on how to serve Canal Place.

Canal Place officials have struggled to establish a revenue stream for the tourism hub and are projecting financial losses over the the next two fiscal years.

Grim went to a meeting Jan. 15 in Annapolis with the District 1 legislative delegation, county and state officials and members of the Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority. The meeting was held to discuss future options for Canal Place.

“Sen. (George) Edwards asked that the city and county, and Chris Uhl of the state to sit down together. We are working to set up a meeting now,” said Grim.

Del. Kevin Kelly has felt the Canal Place board has not been able to deliver. He has called for the Canal Place authority to be abolished and the tourism hub to be jointly managed by the city and the county. Allegany County Commission President Mike McKay, has thrown his support behind Kelly’s plan.

McKay said the county would be interested in the adminstration of the heritage area and marketing of Canal Place.

However, this would leave the city responsible for Canal Place’s assets and operation.

“We don’t want to get saddled with another piece of infrastructure without some precautions,” said Grim.

Grim said the people don’t realize what all Canal Place is. He said there is the Footer Dye Works building, a performance field, a canal boat, the train station, water basin and partially rewatered canal, and a playground and parking lots.

McKay, Uhl and the mayor and council are expected to meet soon to discuss Canal Place.

“It’s not as though we are not willing to see big changes at Canal Place. We want to be able to work through the details and know what we are getting into,” said Grim.

Grim said that the council and the city staff have worked hard to get the city’s budget into the black for the first time since 2007, and he doesn’t want to jeopardize that by jumping into taking on Canal Place.

The city’s financial turn-around was also one of a list of accomplishments Grim cited in a “state of our city” address he gave at the beginning of Tuesday’s council meeting.

“The past year has been a busy one in Cumberland. I’m happy to report to you that our city is improving,” Grim said to open the address.

Grim cited many achievements he felt were made in 2013. The achievements included:

• A budget surplus of $1.5 million.

• 41 new business licenses issued.

• Unemployed down to the lowest rate since 2008.

• $350,000 in grants obtained.

• More than two dozen blighted properties razed.

• 66 commercial and 95 residential construction applications processed.

• 200 free smoke alarms installed.

• A 4 percent reduction in crime through the Safe Streets Initiative.

• 1,200 back warrants served.

• More streets paved in the last three years than in the  previous decade.

• 3,000 feet of water lines and 700 feet of sewer lines replaced.

• New video cameras and LED lighting added downtown.

It was also announced at the meeting that Nicole Wagoner will replace Nick Scarpelli as the city’s representative on the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority for a three-year term beginning Feb. 1. Scarpelli, whose term ends this year, has announced his candidacy for delegate for District 1C of the Maryland General Assembly.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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