Cumberland Times-News

Local News

February 20, 2014

Cemetery organization aid proposal withdrawn

Delegation, commissioners say more reflection needed

CUMBERLAND — Bills introduced only days ago by the Allegany County legislative delegation have been withdrawn. Thursday morning the delegation voted to withdraw two bills that would have permitted county commissioners to in-crease marriage license fees and direct the proceeds to the Cumberland Historic Cemetery Organization. The bills were being considered in the House and Senate of the General Assembly.

The bills were introduced at the request of Allegany County Commission President Mike McKay. The bills would have allowed Allegany County commissioners to increase the county portion of the fee by $13, which would be distributed to the cemetery organization. The total marriage license fee is currently $35, with $10 set by the state — the county has set the local fee at $25.

Del. Kevin Kelly said delegation members were under the impression the proposal had already been vetted by all three county commissioners, since the request by McKay was on county commission letterhead and was signed by McKay as president of the Allegany County Commission.

McKay said in a Thursday letter he also asked for the bills to be withdrawn.

“This is a formal follow-up to my text of 7:29 a.m. today,” the letter begins. The content of McKay’s text was not available.

“After consideration of the views of my constituents, and after further reflection, it is my request that Senate Bill 1037, concerning marriage license fee distribution ... be withdrawn,” McKay wrote.

The Cumberland Historic Cemetery Organization describes itself as “dedicated to preserving our area’s rich historic heritage by erecting and restoring monuments, and also by providing tours and promoting cemetery history to the general public,” according to its website.

Allegany County Circuit Clerk Dawne Lindsey said there were 655 marriage licenses issued in 2013. If commissioners increased the marriage fees by the full $13, that would generate $8,515 for possible distribution to the cemetery organization. Lindsey said her office does not distribute funds from the county portion of the fees, but turns them over to the county.

The delegation said the matter should have been presented as proposed legislation by Allegany County commissioners only after a public hearing and a vote by all three commissioners. McKay wrote to Sen. George Edwards on Feb. 1 asking him to introduce the legislation. The text of the letter does not include any statement that McKay was acting on behalf of the full commission.

In a Thursday letter from Edwards to McKay, Edwards explained why the bills were withdrawn. The bills were “not afforded a public hearing ... nor did the three of you vote on the submission of the legislative request,” Edwards wrote. “This legislative request may be resubmitted. ... If resubmitted, the delegation will again consider and vote on this request.”

McKay explained the request to help the organization in a previous letter.

“Due to current economic conditions, the organization can no longer afford to fund the restoration of monuments, the maintenence of cemetery grounds, and the production of literature ... solely through voluntary contributions,” McKay wrote.

McKay said the request was on behalf of his constituents. The county portion of the fees is currently dedicated to domestic violence prevention programs. That would not have changed, McKay said.

The cemetery organization website is http://www.chco-online.org/.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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