Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

May 19, 2014

What do candidates intend to do, if elected?

— I invite Garrett County Commissioner candidates, regardless of party, to answer tough questions about past commissioner decisions and provide clarity of what they intend to do if elected.

Garrett County leaders have made some questionable investments over the past 10 years. What are good investments in our county and communities? We hear talk of “economic development,” but what atmosphere should be created by our elected leaders to foster this environment?

In education, the recent recession and “wealth formula” calculations for state educational funding has left Garrett, as well as other Maryland counties, with gloomy budget shortfalls.

Why did it take so long for our commissioners to release the funds necessary to avert school closures? Consider Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI) and Garrett College’s Community Aquatic and Recreation Complex (CARC), two investments Garrett taxpayers footed the bill for.

While lifestyle and health benefits that such facilities provide are not in question, what real economic and local community benefits have these brought to the citizens of Garrett County?

The membership rates at CARC are quite high (I can purchase a family membership at Frostburg State University for a fraction of the cost), and it’s quite a drive for a large portion of people who live in the county.

As for ASCI, the “river on a hill” complex on Marsh Mountain, this was a government money pit from the start. When the complex failed to turn a profit, Garrett County taxpayers bailed them out.

Through conversations with ordinary hardworking taxpaying Garrett County citizens, I’ve come up with three projects Garrett County should invest in.

1. Promoting, funding, and building community centers in both ends of the county. This would be smaller and more customized versions of the CARC project, one each in Grantsville and Oakland. These would benefit of citizens and communities of Garrett County. Grantsville boasts one of the nicest community parks in our area. However, there is a need for year-round activities, and a facility with a double gymnasium, small indoor pool and an outdoor pool would be something many citizens would get behind. Oakland would benefit equally from a similar center, tailored to its needs.

2. Making high speed internet available to all citizens of Garrett County. High speed internet is essential to business climate and development in our times. With so many people working at home, we could promote the beauty and tranquility of our county as a reason to start or relocate their home business here. I would be delighted to work from home, but even with the fastest satellite internet service, this is not possible. A fiber optic backbone to provide reliable high speed internet service access to all GC residents would provide a substantial return for our economy.

3. An artificial turf stadium at Garrett College. It may be difficult to convince citizens to fund another large project, considering so much money has been spent on CARC and ASCI, but this stadium would be used by both Northern and Southern for all varsity football and soccer games, track meets, band competitions and other activities. It could help formation of Garrett College soccer teams. Think Greenway Avenue Stadium in Cumberland. Current facilities at Northern and Southern would remain practice fields for the high schools and venues for JV and youth sporting events.

Commission candidates, what are your ideas? Fostering an environment for our families to stay in our county involves more than inviting business and funding education, we need a holistic approach.

Garrett County has much to offer, we simply need leaders that are willing to take big steps, make tough decisions and listen to all our taxpaying citizens, not just those with the deepest pockets.

John Brobst

Finzel

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