Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

December 17, 2013

Friends Aware more deserving of funds than Allegany Museum

Obviously, the Allegany Museum in Cumberland is a nice place to visit for tourists and locals alike, but is it really necessary to spend $2,750,000 on upgrades — $1,500,000 for a new entrance to the museum, $500,000 each for new roof and freight elevator, and $275,000 for a lower-level learning center? (Times-News Nov. 17 and Dec. 5).

Aside from the fact that museum officials tried to “sidestep” the local legislative delegation, even though they have been through the funding request process many times, doesn’t bode well for them. I feel the $2.2 million requested by Friends Aware Inc. (Times-News Nov. 26) is a much greater use of capital. There’s no question it is a much greater immediate need.

I understand the sources of funding may be different, whether grants or bonds or just funded from different state agencies, but we, from families, communities, states and a nation as a whole, have to find a balance of wants and needs if we are to continue with the luxuries we have today.

As far as the museum is concerned, it is located in a building where the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has at least seven offices (departments) located, as well as a cafe, artist studio(s), bail bondsman, Family Support Services, Child Care Administration, and at least one other office and a ballroom available for rent (presumably). Where does the owner of the former District Court Building (DCB) figure into this? I have not found the deed yet, so it may be state-owned or it could be privately owned by a person(s), LLC, or a “shell” corporation, such as the old East Side School.

If the former DCB is privately owned and receiving rent from the state and private businesses, should it really receive $2.75 million of public money for the museum? Especially when considering Washington Street Library was turned down for a $75,000 grant for much needed stripping and painting of its impressive columns.

On to East Side School, which was bought by a corporation, formed in Delaware weeks before the closing date, then the address moved to Old Orchard Road in Baltimore after closing. The “company” doesn’t have a phone number or any other assets, apparently. It sold for $275,000 in March of 2006. If the owner is an absentee owner, why can’t the city impose its power on this “corporation” as it does on homeowners of blighted properties?

Better yet, if Potomac Economic Development and Housing Corp. is what its name suggests, shouldn’t it be able to handle its own property without the city wasting our money for purchase and demolition?

Steve Morgret

Cumberland

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