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County Comment: Commissioners Hear About Heritage Issues

Commemorative Poster presented by Antietam Illumination Committee.
L-R Ed Wenschhof, Georgene Charles, John Barr, Tom Riford

County Comment
Commissioners Hear About Heritage Issues
by Norman Bassett, Public Information Officer
Washington County, Maryland

The Washington County Board of County Commissioners heard about Civil War heritage area issues in its regular meeting on November 3rd.
Georgene Charles, Chair of the 20th Annual Memorial Illumination at Antietam National Battlefield, Tom Riford, President of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Ed Wenschhof, Chief Ranger and Incident Manager for the Memorial Illumination provided an update for the Commissioners, and presented the Board with a commutative poster featuring scenes from past events.
The American Bus Association has named the 20th Annual Illumination, set for December 6th, a Top 100 Event in North America, Riford said. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has committed to attend, and former Governor William Donald Schaefer will serve as the honorary chairperson of the event. The largest memorial illumination in North America, with over 23,000 candles the Antietam event drew more than 25,000 last year.
Citing increased costs, a request was made for Commissioners' assistance of $12,000 from the Hotel-Motel tax.
The CVB is the largest financial supporter of the event, funding $2,500 of the cost. Local economic impact is estimated at $150,000.
The Board approved the request. By state law Hotel-Motel tax funds may be used to promote recreational events and tourism
The Commissioners also approved provision of a letter pf support to the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership (JTHG), to further that group's goal of securing the All American Road designation for the U.S. highway 15 corridor from Gettysburg, PA to Monticello, VA through the National Scenic Byway program.
Cate Wyatt of JTHG told the Board that the 175 mile long route, although not located in Washington County, is a tourism backbone for the region, drawing visitors to sites such as Antietam battlefield and Fort Frederick State Park. The route travels through home places of 9 U.S. Presidents, and the largest collection of Civil War battlefields in the nation, including Antietam, Bull Run, and Chancellorsville.
In addition to Fort Frederick, there are a number of French and Indian War, Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites along the Repute, Wyatt said.
The area is part of the National Heritage Area, and the group is seeking support from local governments in the region in order to secure the Scenic Byway designation.
The group would purchase land along the route for preservation of historic areas with grants from national programs following that designation, Wyatt said.
In other actions, the Board heard an update on the Sierra Nevada corporation's activities at Hagerstown Regional Airport from CEO Hal Lucas. Lucas said his company infuses $70 million into the Washington County economy annually with its military aircraft conversion operations at HGR.
Washington County Circuit Court Judge John McDowell and Assistant County Attorney Andrew Wilkinson briefed the Commissioners on the possibility that the County will be required to pay for Public Defender Panel Attorneys in criminal cases where there are two or more indigent co-defendants.
The state's Public Defender's Office has announced that due to budget cuts it is no longer able to pay for those services. The Maryland Court of Appeals has asked the Governor and General Assembly to provide funds for the problem, but in the interim, Counties may have to pay for the Attorney's fees.
The Board approved a Primary Contract Award for Engineering Services to Wallace, Montgomery & Associates LLP of Towson MD in the amount of $340,300.00 and accepted a "stand-by" list of alternate consultants.
Approval was granted for certification of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program Agriculture Transfer Tax Fund allowing the County to continue to participate in the program, which provides a 60/40 match for preserving Ag land.
Following Closed Session, the Board convened in Open session and appointed Brenda Laughglin to the Washington County Disability Advisory Committee. Appointees to the County Employee Salary Review Committee include Dennis Embly Tina Rupert, Mike Rohrer, Verna Brown, Ron Whitt, Chief Sheriff's Deputy Randy Wilkinson, Brian Hale, and Rick Curry. Joe Tischer was appointed to the committee as a member from the community.

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