Mike McKay

CUMBERLAND — On Thursday, Del.—elect Michael McKay told a room full of county staff, legislators and visitors that the City of Cumberland was not participating in the 2015 PACE meeting.

McKay said Tuesday that his comments were misunderstood. McKay said his Thursday comments were based on his understanding that the city was not participating in pre-PACE meetings. McKay said he was only discussing the pre-PACE meetings.

"They don't plan to attend," McKay said Thursday. No one present corrected that assertion. City officials say they are participating.

"The mayor, several city council members, myself, city engineer John DiFonzo and Economic Development Coordinator Shawn Hershberger are attending PACE as we do each year. Though we are still developing our organizational agenda for the trip, it sounds like you have been given incorrect information," said City Administrator Jeff Rhodes.

McKay forwarded to the Times—News a Dec. 12 email from City Engineer John DiFonzo that McKay said explained his comment.

“We are going to pass on that this year,” DiFonzo wrote in a response to a question about the PACE meetings from Paul Kahl, the county’s director of public works. In the email, Kahl asked: “We sent a letter to Mayor Grim seeing if Cumberland wanted to meet during the day at PACE. Let me know if Cumberland is interested with meeting as we did last year.”

McKay, who won election to the District 1C seat in the General Assembly in November, represents portions of the City of Cumberland.

The Positive Attitudes Change Everything event strives to educate state legislators and officials about Allegany and Garrett counties and to present the local perspective about state issues, according to Allegany County officials.

The event is hosted by the Cumberland/Allegany County Industrial Foundation and the Garrett County Development Corp. The PACE reception is planned for Jan. 22 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and the PACE breakfast is set for Jan. 23 from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Both events are held at the Loews Annapolis Hotel at 126 West St. The general public is welcome to purchase an all-inclusive ticket for these two events, officials said.

Besides educating legislators about the area, the annual reception in Annapolis often yields leads on funding for local water and sewer projects, and allows local leaders to make important contacts with state government and federal officials.

McKay made the statement at a meeting at county offices on Kelly Road Thursday. The meeting between Allegany County commissioners and staff gave state legislators representing the area something of a wish list for the upcoming 2015 General Assembly session.

The District 1 delegation to Annapolis consists of Sen. George Edwards, Del. Wendell Beitzel and Dels.-elect Jason Buckel and Michael McKay. Commissioners Jake Shade, Creade Brodie Jr. and Bill Valentine participated in the meeting. The mayor of Cumberland also commented on PACE participation.

"I believe you have been intentionally and purposefully misled. The city has been and is engaged in PACE and will be sending several staff and elected representatives to participate this year, just have we have done each year before... .  And, the city delegation will engage in one-on-one and other meetings that will forward those talking points and the best interests of our community, said Cumberland Mayor Brian Grim.

McKay made the statements during comments on the city's plan to deal with a sewer overflow problem.

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

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