Cumberland Times-News

July 11, 2013

DDC budget shows year-end surplus; City, CSX discussing Baltimore St. underpass

Jeffrey Alderton
Cumberland Times-News

CRESAPTOWN — CUMBERLAND — A well-attended 45-minute meeting of the Downtown Development Commission covered a lot of topics Thursday, including a year-end review of the DDC budget that showed a slight surplus.

“We spent 99 percent of the budget and the good news is we end the fiscal year with a $23,000 surplus,” said DDC member Ed Huber, who presented an overview of the financial report. Revenue for the year totaled approximately $235,000 and expenses totaled roughly $212,000 to create the surplus.

“Typically, we have not had much of a surplus,” said Huber.

The meeting in a City Hall conference room also addressed the ongoing discussion of the underpass at Queen City Drive and Baltimore Street that allows pedestrian traffic to cross the busy highway and CSX railroad tracks.

Downtown Manager Ed Mullaney said he recently attended a meeting that included a representative of CSX and of the city. “It was a very positive meeting, I think there is a consensus to revisit the issue. The discussion about the underpass precipitated the city and CSX into strong conversation about many things in the city concerning the city and CSX.

“I think there is a very positive future for the subway. I think some good things will come out of it,” said Mullaney, who said he did his own personal fact-finding study of the underpass, speaking to many people and even walking through it one day when personal business provided an opportunity to use the underground tunnel.

“There was a couple bags of litter because it hadn’t been cleaned up for a while. There was no foul smell but it was a little stale,” he said.

Mullaney also said he sensed that “CSX doesn’t want to see it closed. ... There is a willingness of the city and CSX to do some problem-solving,” he said.

In another matter, downtown co-manager Jennifer Light said attendance at Thursday farmers markets on the mall is improving following some advertising of the weekly event that began many years ago as a flower market. The officials also said attendance at the Saturday farmers market at Canal Place has been good and increasing.

“Farmers market is taking off,” said Light.

As for the summer-long Friday After 5 programs, a few have been canceled by rainy weather. “The others have been well-attended. There have been no issues and we are getting a good mix of the community coming down for the event, which is what we need,” said Mullaney.

Mullaney also said a Fourth of July event at the Canal Place Crescent Lawn “had one of the largest crowds”  and some businesses reported excellent sales during the holiday event. Andy Vick of the Canal Place authority thanked Mullaney and the DDC for their ongoing support of Canal Place activities.

DDC chairwoman Sandi Saville spoke about the Survey for Stakeholders that provided opportunity for downtown mall building owners to offer their feedback to DDC. She said 35 responses have been received out of 100 stakeholders.

The online survey was scheduled to conclude Friday but a several-day extension for response was urged by DDC member Tony Ottaviani.

Saville said the results of the survey would be presented for DDC review when they are finalized.

“Most people appreciate the opportunity to participate,” said Saville.

DDC officials also met with Rocky Gap Casino Resort officials to pursue bringing resort visitors downtown by shuttle. The Allegany Museum is reportedly trying to put together bus tours that would visit downtown Cumberland, Rocky Gap and other local attractions.

In other comments, Mullaney spoke about downtown costumed greeter Ryan Cuba “who is worth his weight in gold in meeting and greeting.”

“We always try to put our best foot forward and Ryan is always trying to do this. He is probably the most photographed person in Cumberland,” said Mullaney.

City resident Cuba portrays surveyor and Baltimore native Christopher Gist while serving as a greeter for tourists exiting the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Cuba distributes maps of the downtown area along with other tourism sites as part of a promotional effort through the Downtown Managers’ Office.

Jeffrey Alderton may be contacted at jlalderton@times-news.com.