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Board of County Commissioners' Actions: Commissioners Approve Commercial Jobs Stimulus, Chinese Friendly-City Program, Senior Center Concept

Board of County Commissioners' Actions
Commissioners Approve Commercial Jobs Stimulus, Chinese Friendly-City Program, Senior Center Concept

In its regular meeting on December 8th, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners approved a program to attract and create jobs in the Commercial Sector.
The move followed a similar set of incentives approved in November that would stimulate jobs in the residential construction industry.
The Economic Development Commission requested approval of a multi-faceted "Job Attraction and Creation Program" (JAC) designed to encourage existing companies to expand and add jobs, and to attract new businesses and jobs to the County. Incentives will be available for jobs created or for expansions or new projects that can be permitted by June 30, 2010. $500,000 to offset the cost of the financial incentives will be used, part of funds set aside earlier in the year to stimulate the local economy.
Incentives would include: $1,500/job of a non-retail business paying at least 150% of the federal minimum wage or 200% of the federal minimum wage for retail jobs. Jobs must be full time and continue for at least 3-years. The Board will consider increased incentives if the jobs created by the business are higher paying and the project helps the County in the pursuit of its economic development goals.
Businesses would be eligible for a 3-year payment program on excise tax due for an expansion or new construction for any non-retail business, or a retail business that will employ at least 10 full time employees and obtain a building permit by June 30, 2010. There will be a 75% discount on building permit fees for non-retail businesses and a 25% discount for retail businesses
A project creating at least 10 jobs will qualify for the County's Fast Track Program. In addition the Board authorized the County Administrator to oversee the projects and mediate any issues that cannot readily be resolved by County departments, outside agencies and consultants.
The County and the city of Jinha, China will become "friendship cities". The Board gave formal approval to the relationship following a report on the agreement by Commissioners' President John Barr. Barr stated the County has no fiscal or other commitment with the city, and that the agreement was a good will measure.
The agreement calls for mutual understanding and friendship between the two entities. Barr's trip to China was arranged by Kaplan University to further relations between higher education institutions in the U.S. and China. Barr reported to the Board that he funded the trip himself.
Commissioners approved the overall concept for a new Senior Center to be located on the Hagerstown Community College campus, and gave the go-ahead to move forward with further planning activities.
During discussions for the FY 2010 budget funding was set aside for this purpose in the amount of $3 million.
Initially, the project was for a Senior Center which only provided recreational and limited support services for the senior population. With offices located downtown, the County would be paying for two locations for Commission on Aging (COA) operations that would require seniors to travel back and forth between sites, and was not efficient with regard to overall needs. The revised plan called for consolidation of activities into one county-owned location. Part of the needed funding would come from savings in current lease costs for office space
Architect Brent Feight donated services to the project, and presented the current plan to the Board.
County Administrator Greg Murray told the Board that the $5,800,000 total funding needed would come from the core Senior Center space funded at $3 million, including $672,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, $1 million funded by a Trust restricted to that purpose, $70,000 yearly lease costs for the Current COA administration and program space, and an $800,000 grant from the State for Meals on Wheels support.
In other actions, approval was given to again support the Washington County Community Lobbying Coalition in its mission to lobby, in Annapolis, for issues important to the entire community, many of which directly impact the County. $10,000 for the project will come from the Commissioners' Contingency Fund.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brien Poffenberger told the Board that the lobbying effort has been successful in areas of funding threat such as the University System of Maryland Hagerstown campus, as well as County gaming funds, and in securing funding for the Library renovation and expansion project.
The County has supported the effort for several years, and is one of eight community partners; the City of Hagerstown, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, CHIEF, the Greater Hagerstown Committee, the Washington County Free Library and the Public School System. All provide funding for the project.
The County is supporting "It Pays to be Counted", the 2010 Census effort. Commissioner's President John Barr heads that complete count committee, along with State Senator Don Munson. Barr reported that a slate of activities will be announced in January, with a goal of full participation by all County residents.
Further discussion of the proposed Stormwater Management, Grading, Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance was held.
In April 2007, Governor O'Malley signed into law the Stormwater Management Act of 2007. This legislation called for a comprehensive review of the state's surface water runoff program and sweeping revisions to the regulations, design standards and best management practices for stormwater, soil erosion and sediment control. Over the past eighteen months, staff within the Division of Public Works have been collecting information, meeting with state officials and working toward producing a proposed Ordinance that satisfies the state's new regulations and design criteria. Staff is proposing to combine the Stormwater Management Ordinance with the Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance. The Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance had not been updated since 1985.
Budget and Finance Director Debra Murray was honored by the Board for receiving the Government Finance Officers' Association "Distinguished Budget Presentation" award for the sixth consecutive year. The award represents a significant achievement and commitment of the governing body to meet highest principles of governmental budgeting, GFOA said. Murray cited department staff and the teamwork required to produce a fiscally conservative budget that represents the best interests of county citizens.
Art Callaham, President of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees reported on funding sources for the renovation and expansion project. Callaham told the Board that along with the State contribution of $11.3 million, and the County's 7 million for engineering, design and construction, the City of Hagerstown contributed $1.5 million to the project, the Library Endowment Fund would contribute $2 million, an additional $1 million has been received from a private donor, and a fund-raising campaign was expected to raise $1 million.
The Board approved renewal of Fire and Rescue Companies Insurance by awarding the package insurance placement for policy year January 2009 to January 2010 to Selective Insurance Company for an annual premium of $353,293 for property and casualty and $233,138 for volunteer Workers Compensation coverage. Insurance and Risk Management Coordinator Becky Maginnis told the Board that the total premium increase for the entire insurance program was held to 5.6%, or $31,334, well below budgeted amounts.
Approval was given for the Federal Aid Funding for Bridge Rehabilitation Agreement between the City of Hagerstown and the Board of County Commissioners
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides funding for major bridge reconstruction and rehabilitation. The funding priorities are established based on bi-annual inspections and structural evaluations. Several years ago, three bridges located within the City of Hagerstown were identified as needing repairs. The federal funding allocation had been distributed based on the countywide priorities and it is now the programming year for these federal funding eligible bridges to be repaired. The federal funds provide 80% of the total design and construction costs. The City of Hagerstown is responsible for the balance.
The Bridge funds are distributed directly to the County, based on the approved priority listed on file with the State Highway Administration (SHA). The SHA manages the funds for the FHWA, and they require an agreement between the City and County be executed to allow the City access to these funds.
Hagerstown Regional Airport Marketing Manager Greg Larsen reported on the recent familiarization tour of the Airport and business facilities located there for representatives of five higher education institutions. The five have programs of instruction dealing with aviation business, and the program was held to give the educators insight into the types of businesses located on the airfield. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the National Aviation Academy, the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore participated.
The Board approved accepting the Washington County Bridge Program grant of $61,000 into the Community Partnership budget. The project provides transitional housing and supportive services to homeless families and individuals and is a collaborative effort by the Community Action Council, St. John's Shelter, CASA, the Salvation Army and REACH, Inc. through the Community Partnership and Local Management Board.

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