CUMBERLAND — Two area residents spoke during the public input portion of Tuesday’s regular meeting of the mayor and city council urging city officials to explore the promotion and devolpment of a stretch of the Potomac River behind the Blue Bridge dam for recreational use.
Gary Clites of Carpendale, W.Va., and Bernie Miltenberger of Frostburg said that the three-mile stretch of the North Branch of the Potomac River behind the dam could be returned to what they feel is its “former glory,” as a boating, canoeing and fishing hub.
“The river upstream (of the dam) is natural and tree-lined and it’s a beautiful stretch of water,” said Clites.
Strong local interest in the idea, also known as the River Project, was recently on display when 120 citizens attended the Allegany Museum on June 6 for an evening of discussion on the topic that featured three expert speakers.
“The first action should be the testing of the water in the river to determine its safety,” said Clites.
Clites said that 100 years ago, the river, which then featured commercial paddleboats, sailboats and other watercraft, drew thousands for recreation.
“The (water quality) testing should be done in the context of using the results to help in making the decisions as to the best use of the waterway and not to be used for the goal of necessarily removing the dam,” said Clites.
Many officials have expressed a desire to utilize the potential of the Potomac River as an additional tourist draw to augment the success of the Great Allegheny Passage.
Officials hope that comprehensive testing of the sediments on the riverbed behind the dam can begin in the fall.
In other council news, an ordinance was passed to clear the way for the city to bill insurance companies for certain services provided by the Cumberland Fire Department.
The ordinance will clear the way for the billing of insurance companies for fire suppression, motor vehicle collisions and hazardous materials cleanups.
Only those with insurance coverage will have their carrier billed. Individuals with no coverage will not be held responsible for the charges.
It was also revealed that Charles “Buck” Taylor Jr. will have his contract extended as the city’s code enforcement officer for the 2014 fiscal year.
The city also indicated two recent expenses:
• IA Construction Corp. was paid $69,058.50 for emergency repairs involving a water main break on Davidson Street.
• The city paid $1.3 million to the PMA Company to provide workers compensation coverage for city employees for fiscal year 2014.
Mayor Brian Grim said the funds are placed into an account to pay claims and that any money left over is returned to the city.
Greg Larry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org