Cumberland Times-News

Local News

May 16, 2013

Audit: State agency failed to resolve easements violations in timely manner

CUMBERLAND  — The state agency that helps fund and organize agricultural preservation in Allegany County and statewide has failed to ensure that easements violations were resolved in a timely manner, state auditors said. Easements are a crucial part of the program to protect farm and other agricultural lands in the state.

Protecting agricultural land forever is the goal of the program run by the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation. To achieve that goal, easements to the land are purchased from the owners. The easements specify that development of the land is prohibited in perpetuity. Once in a while, the terms of the easements are violated and auditors said the foundation isn’t doing a good job of tracking those violations and making sure they are resolved.

As of Jan. 31, the foundation database indicated approximately 281 unresolved violations. According to its management, 33 of these violations were duplicates, but of the remaining 248 violations, it considered 31 violations to be either high priority (such as subdivision violations) or medium priority (such as debris issues). According to foundation records, these violations have remained unresolved for periods of up to six years, the audit report read.

Enforcement of the easements, though, is handled at the local level. The local farmland protection boards must report such violations to the foundation, according to the audit.

The audit did not review or make any findings or examine local enforcement actions.

Officials from the foundation agreed with the audit findings and said they will correct the problem.

“MALPF concurs with the finding and acknowledges the need for better communication among staff for better follow-up and resolution of easement violations. MALPF has an existing database to record and monitor easement violations. ... The monitoring and enforcement coordinator will conduct a comprehensive review of the database three times a year, and MALPF administrators will commit to entering the violations that they identify into the database,” the auditors reported.

There are only a few easements to preserve agricultural land in Allegany County, and the planning office is responsible for monitoring those properties. Acting Planning Coordinator David Dorsey visits and confirms the status of the properties and easements.

“They’ve (the state) made it easier since they require an inspection of the property before the easement. It gives us baseline data to work from,” Dorsey said. Dorsey said that because of mineral rights issues, there have not been many recent farmland protection easements in the county.

There are only a handful of the easements in the county because, until recently, the calculation used to determine how much the landowner was paid worked against a decent price for landowners in the area, Dorsey said. That was a problem before the mineral rights issue came up, largely in connection with drilling for natural gas in Marcellus shale.

The audit was prepared by the Office of Legislative Audits of the Department of Legislative Services. The audit was released April 30.

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

1
Text Only
Local News
  •  Easter grass Easter grass

    Kamryn Rice, 7, of Flintstone, finds and bags a plastic egg during Cumberland’s annual Easter Egg Hunt Saturday afternoon at Constitution Park. Hosted by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, along with students from Frostburg State University’s Recreation and Parks Management program and the 4-H Youth of Allegany County, the afternoon also included games, relay races, face painting, temporary tattoos, arts and crafts, and a petting zoo sponsored by the 4-H Hare Raiser Club, as well as a visit from the Easter Bunny. The eggs contained candy and other treats.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Business community wary of minimum wage increases

    CUMBERLAND — Allegany County businesses are certain to be impacted by the increase in Maryland’s minimum wage, set to reach $10.10 an hour by July 2018 under a law championed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

    April 20, 2014

  • Tipped workers left behind in pay hike action

    ANNAPOLIS — Many minimum wage workers will be getting a raise now that a hike to Maryland’s wage has been signed into law. But while advocates are ascribing the increase as a win, there’s a bitter aftertaste for one group that was left behind.

    April 20, 2014

  • Views vary among Americans when it comes to hourly rate

    CUMBERLAND — Even among those who have worked minimum wage jobs, views on the minimum wage can differ.
    “Minimum wage has to exist. There is no question there, so whatever it is, it will be called ‘minimum wage’. But it should not be below a living wage,” said Bonita Quick of Cumberland.

    April 20, 2014

  • Income guideline change will increase WIC recipients

    KEYSER, W.Va. — Raised income eligibility guidelines for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children will increase the number of those served in West Virginia by about 10 percent, according to the state health officer.

    April 20, 2014

  • Absentee ballots moving online causes security concerns

    ANNAPOLIS — Voters may get to skip the lines at the polls this summer by receiving and marking their ballots online, but election officials must first decide if the convenience outweighs the security risks.

    April 20, 2014

  • Allegany County emergency medical services honorees and supporters Allegany, Garrett emergency responders honored

    MCHENRY — The 75 people from Allegany and Garrett counties who were involved with two exceptional emergency medical services calls in 2013 were presented with awards at the recent Night for Stars program held at the Wisp Resort.

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lexis Trickett meets with Gov. Martin O’Malley Ninth-grader among 30 at inaugural event

    OAKLAND — Lexis Trickett, a ninth-grade student at Southern Garrett High School, was among 30 girls who attended Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Leadership Forum for Women and Girls recently in Annapolis in celebration of Women’s History Month.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • School immunization requirements change

    CUMBERLAND — Changes to school immunization requirements by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene affect students entering kindergarten and seventh grade for the next school year.

    April 20, 2014

  • Easter experience Easter experience

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

Facebook
Must Read
News related video
Marathoners Celebrate Easter With Tradition Raw: Obamas Attend Easter Service Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Beau Biden Plans 2016 Run for Del. Governor Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction