County Comment: Commissioners present State of the County address

County Comment
Commissioners present State of the County address
By Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

On February 8th, 2011, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners presented the 2011 State of the County address to business and community leaders at the Fountainhead Country Club in Hagerstown, sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.
Using video produced by Antietam Cable TV, the Board reported on County projects and activities during Calendar Year 2010, and made projections for the future.
Commissioners' President Terry Baker said, "We as a new Board are starting on a journey during trying times that requires us to make difficult decisions to keep County Government efficient and responsive at the lowest cost to our citizens. We continue to improve access to government for our citizens, and encourage you to participate and provide feedback that allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of the community."
"There are many services, infrastructure improvements, economic development initiatives, and amenities that must be managed in a responsible manner even in trying economic times. We will continue to strive to address these issues effectively to serve the best interest of the County. We hope you find the information in this presentation useful in showing where we are and where we are going," Baker said.
Newly elected Commissioner Jeff Cline commented on how his experience in local government in the Town of Williamsport will assist in the decision-making process.
"It's no secret that challenging economic times are ahead for all levels of government, and I am proud to say that County Government will continue to support our citizens in all of our municipalities with all available resources. We have and will continue to share our federal ARRA stimulus money for highway projects. Hotel Rental Tax will be provided for projects and economic development.
"A Council of Government is in its infancy, bringing our elected officials at both the county and municipal levels together in a forum to discuss common concerns to benefit all. The Board of County Commissioners will continue to meet in our communities and to encourage our local residents to attend and discuss their community issues.
"We will work together to indentify other ways of mutual cooperation and support that will enhance our quality of life in Washington County, after all we all live here and we are friends, and we are all neighbors," Cline said.
Commissioners'' Vice-President John Barr talked about growth in capital projects in 2011 and beyond.
"The public investment in our community for capital projects totaled $11.5 million dollars in 2010, with another $20 million dollar investment following in early 2011. Needed public infrastructure like the Hagerstown Community College STEM building, a new regional library to serve interests in the Hagerstown City Center as well as the surrounding region, a senior center, and new school facilities that give children an opportunity to learn according to their needs are all part of community enhancements in our capital plan.
"The renovation and expansion of the central library leveraged state, county, City of Hagerstown and private donor contributions and represented nearly a $20 million dollar investment that will serve our citizens for many decades to come; and the design of the county's first senior center is near completion ready to advertise for construction bids early in 2011, through cooperative efforts between County Government, HCC, and the Commission on Aging.
"Two other projects seeing construction starts include an inmate housing expansion at the Washington County Detention Center and improvements to the County Commuter Administrative Offices and Maintenance facility.
"We will continue to program money responsibly to manage important community infrastructure to benefit the citizens of our community," Barr said.
Bill McKinley, elected to the Board in 2010, talked about the role Hagerstown Regional Airport plays in the local economy.
"Significant growth continues to occur at Hagerstown Regional Airport, reflected in last year's completion of another large airplane hangar on the airport's northern edge at Route 11. Known as Building #66, it provides 39,000 square feet of state-of-the-art facility for a U.S. Department of Homeland Security program. This multi-million dollar contract is being orchestrated by the Sierra Nevada Corporation's Hagerstown based Integrated Mission Systems division which involves the outfitting of "Air and Marine Multirole Enforcement Aircraft" with electronics, radio communication suites, sensor equipment and other technology.
"Construction also began last year on a three story, 35,000 square foot, office complex located on Route 11 just south of Nick's Airport Inn. Designed by local architects BFM, Airport Building #67 will serve as a critical centerpiece for the campus of the Sierra Nevada Corporation's Northeast headquarters. While helping to address the deficit of quality office space on and around the Airport, it will also help to optimize space utilization in the 7 airplane hangars that surround it. Occupancy is expected later this month.
"Both of these facilities represent significant private investment in Airport property and are expected to further contribute to positive job creation at the airport.
"We are fortunate to have such a valuable asset as the Hagerstown Regional Airport in our community," McKinley said."
Former Board of Education member and newly-elected Commissioner Ruth Ann Callaham talked about the contributions our world-class educational system makes to the community, state and nation.
"When I think about Washington County Schools, the vision of happy children comes to mind; a mental picture of students in a variety of settings smiling and happy about their day. Whether a part of a program that is highly academic such as the International Baccalaureate, or highly creative such as the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, or highly challenging such as job training at Marshall Street School, the success of children is the bell weather of Washington County.
"Throughout the world the evidence is clear that children who succeed in school oft become successful adults and sustain a vibrant community. Our schools - and that includes staff from the Superintendent, administration, and teachers, to the Employee Support Personnel such as our bus drivers and lunch room folks - are all focused on the physical well being and educational goals of students.
"Did you know Washington County has an award winning food service program emphasizing the use of locally grown food prepared at the school whenever possible? Did you know that students in our interscholastic sports programs compete in over a dozen different sports on a regional and statewide basis with our share of State Championship Titles? Go Washington County! It is that laser focus...the passionate belief that every child can learn... that every child deserves our maximum effort, that gives us reason to ensure a quality education is within their reach.
"Think about Washington County Schools as a system of opportunity. Think about a community coming together for the students... business leaders, service clubs, faith based organizations, the "soccer mom" volunteers giving countless hours and enumerable funds to students. All with that laser focus to offer educational opportunities that will lead to a great future for them and our community," Callaham said.
Highlights of then video included a history of the County, progress on projhects in Calendar year 2010 including roads and bridges, transportation, environmental protection, public safety, and education
The program enumerated a host of projects begun or completed in 2010. The video will be aired on ACTV Video on Demand and the County website
In questions and answers following the presentation, Commissioners commented on state cuts to Counties, a possible Gasoline Tax hike in Maryland and state mandates that pass costs on to the Counties.