County Comment: Assistance for water, housing rehabilitation, economic development

County Comment
Assistance for water, housing rehabilitation, economic development
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

In its regular meeting on August 29, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners heard Dave Jordan, Executive Director of the Washington County Community Action Council (CAC) report on the PenMar Water Assistance Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program.
CDBG funds for $206,600 have been approved for Washington County to provide needed assistance to low and moderate-income households for installation of public water in the PenMar area, Jordan said. CAC, on behalf of the County Commissioners, is coordinating that project.
Jordan told the Board that the assistance will be in the form of 0%, deferred loans to eligible low to moderate income households and an estimated 38% of the 78 households that will connect to the system will be income eligible for assistance through the CDBG program.
Eligible costs would include connection fees and related costs to hook up the housing unit to the public water system, averaging $7,800 per hookup. Jordan said that the loans would be "no payback" for qualifying homeowners that continue to live in the residence for a period of 5 years.
The Washington County Department of Water Quality is completing the installation of the water distribution system, including a storage facility and fire protection for the PenMar area. The PenMar project will serve a residential area consisting of 78 units, a church, and a county park.
Economic Development Commission Chair John Schnebly and Deborah Everhart, Director of Economic Development for the City of Hagerstown brought a request before the Board for adoption tax credit programs similar to the City of Hagerstown's "Community Legacy Area" Residential Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program and Conversion of Multi-Family to Single-Family Residences Tax Credit.
The EDC Intragovernmental Committee (EDCIC) has been working with both the City of Hagerstown and Washington County staff to develop a tax credit program for residential rehabilitation and conversion of multi-family dwellings into single-family residences in the City of Hagerstown's Community Legacy Area. City staff introduced the tax credit programs to the Hagerstown Mayor and Council on June 20, 2006, and the measures were adopted on July 25.
EDCIC proposed that the Commissioners adopt similar tax credit programs to coincide with the City. If the assessment on the property increases following a qualifying improvement project, the City and County would grant a tax credit on the increase in assessment up to the maximum amount of the cost of qualifying improvements. The City would administer the program and applications would be available through the City.
Timmy Ruppersberger, the County's Bond Counsel with Venable, LLP brought $5,000,000 in Economic Development Revenue Bonds for Conservit, Inc to public hearing, proposing that the County issue one or more series of its economic development revenue bonds in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $5,000,000. The proceeds from the sale of the Bonds would be used to finance equipment used in an expansion of Conservit, Inc's metals recycling facility on Maryland Route 65.
Washington County would be only a conduit to issue the Economic Development Revenue Bonds, which would be sold, and the proceeds provided in a loan to Conservit. There will be no exposure for the County in that the County will not be liable for the payments.
Conservit CEO Jack Metzner told the Board that a 4,500 square foot building is being built to house the expanded operation.
No one appeared to comment either in favor of or in opposition to the request. A motion to go forward with issuance of the bonds was approved by unanimous vote.
Metzner told the Board that Conservit is now 100% employee-owned, that three to four thousand cars per month are shredded at that plant, and the metal sold to be recycled into new products.