Cumberland Times-News

January 4, 2013

Allegany at MACo forum

Local commissioners join others in Cambridge to deliberate about watershed plans, budget challenges

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Allegany County commissioners have been participating in this week’s Maryland Association of Counties Annual Winter Conference in Cambridge and a former county commissioner was honored for his years of public service.

“I came away with a more consistent feeling about the unity of the counties. We were asking the state for a break ... an opportunity to digest the legislation that’s already been passed regarding watershed implementation plans and TMDL’s (total maximum daily loads),” Commission President Michael McKay said. TMDLs are a measure of pollution entering the Chesapeake Bay.

During the conference, a meeting of the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition was planned.

The coalition recently gained its 10th member county. Kent County is the latest member of the coalition.

McKay is the chairman of the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition.

The organization is not meant as a rival to the Maryland Association of Counties, McKay has said. He said there is a need for the rural coalition as an independent organization.

Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine was the moderator for the “The Nuts and Bolts of School Budgeting” session.

Recent Maintenance of Effort changes and the transfer of a portion of teacher pension costs have presented budget challenges for counties, officials said.

During the session, the Maryland State Department of Education provided guidance for the completion of budget documents, and a county budget officer and a school system financial officer provided their perspectives on budgeting for education at the local level.

Robert M. Hutcheson, an Allegany County commissioner from 2000 to 2010, was given the 2013 Marilyn J. Praisner Public Service Award.

Hutcheson was nominated for the award by the current Allegany County commissioners, county officials said. Hutcheson received the award at the MACo Inaugural Ceremony/Awards Banquet on Thursday.

McKay said the award to Hutcheson was his personal highlight from the conference. Hutcheson was very active in MACo, McKay said.

“He was a prince as a principal, certainly a prince in his family life and his activities in the Shrine. He is a true gentleman,” McKay said.

Hutcheson is the past potentate of the Ali Ghan Shrine. “It was good to have Allegany County showcased,” McKay said. Jim Staken, another former commissioner, was among past county officials and county staff present for Hutcheson’s award.

Established in 1951, MACo is a nonprofit and non-partisan organization that serves Maryland county governments by articulating its needs and ideas to the Maryland General Assembly and State Government, according to an Allegany County press release. MACo’s members are the elected officials of the 23 counties in the state and Baltimore City.

For additional information about the Maryland Association of Counties visit www.mdcounties.org.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.