CUMBERLAND — City and county officials are reviewing final plans to merge the Cumberland Economic Development Corp. with Allegany County’s economic development department. The details of the plans could be finalized as early as Thursday.
The idea of merging the CEDC with the county began in the fall. Negotiations among the parties to reach an agreement and develop a memorandum of understanding hit snags along the way, but officials are indicating a final agreement is near.
Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss and the four members of the City Council are meeting in an executive session Tuesday afternoon to go over the agreement.
“The CEDC will show us the memorandum of understanding at the meeting and will explain it to the City Council,” said Morriss in a Times-News interview Monday afternoon. “We won’t officially recognize it until our next (public) meeting (Jan. 21). But assuming there aren’t any issues the council comes up with ... unless we see any red flags or serious issues ... it should go to the county meeting. We expect everything to go well.”
Brandon Butler, county administrator, said the merger is expected to be on the agenda for Thursday’s regular meeting of the Allegany County Board of Commissioners. Commission President Jake Shade also said last week that a roll-out of the merger’s details was likely for Thursday.
The CEDC was formed in July 2015 by a vote of Cumberland’s mayor and City Council with the purpose of pursuing economic development projects within the city limits. Currently, the CEDC’s two-member staff is located in an office on Pershing Street.
Where the CEDC would be located if merged with the county became an issue during negotiations. The county had indicated it would like to place the CEDC staff at the county complex, among its current economic development staff. However, some city officials objected to that idea for fear of undue influence.
Morriss said, “Some things are still to be determined, but it doesn’t look like (the CEDC) will be located in City Hall or at the county complex.”
He said the CEDC may be housed in a separate building independent of the city and county.
The CEDC’s budget was another sticking point. During negotiations, the CEDC was indicating it wanted an annual budget as high as $1 million. It is currently funded at $350,000 by the city.
Officials said details on the budget arrangements, the location of the CEDC office, and other details will be announced at Thursday’s county meeting at 5 p.m. at the Allegany County Complex, Kelly Road. The meeting is open to the public.
Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.