County Comment: Commissioners Meet with Senator Mikulski

County Comment
Commissioners Meet with Senator Mikulski
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Maryland Public Information Officer

As part of its regular meeting on March 22, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners met with U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) at the Baldwin House in Downtown Hagerstown. The site, home to the University System of Maryland-Hagerstown is also the new home of the Senator's local office, which was officially opened following the meeting.
Public Works Division Director Gary Rohrer presented a report on the progress of library branch construction in the towns of Smithsburg and Boonsboro and commended the efforts of Senator Mikulski in helping make the Smithsburg project obtain a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Grant in the amount of $298,230. The new Smithsburg branch is in the final stages of design with a projected start of construction in mid May.
"Design work on the Boonsboro project should be completed by the end of the calendar year with construction to begin next spring," Rohrer said. The Boonsboro Library is not the beneficiary of any grants at the present time. The Boonsboro building fund is at $1,017,606 with building costs estimated to be comparable to the Smithsburg project.
Department of Emergency Services Director Joe Kroboth brought the Senator and Commissioners up to date on Homeland Security issues, grant funding opportunities and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. The County is in the process of replacing its public safety communications system through one of the most technically challenging and expensive projects ever undertaken by this jurisdiction. To date, Kroboth said, $1.6 million of the $2.2 million dollars received has been earmarked for the communications project, less than 10 percent of the total $21 million dollar price tag.
The remainder of the Homeland Security grant funds have been spent on outfitting fire and police agencies with protective clothing and equipment.
Commissioners' President Greg Snook presented recent developments relating to the County's efforts to reinstate Hagerstown Regional Airport's (HGR) eligibility for "Essential Air Service" funding and support, currently under consideration by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Senator said that Senators in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia should offer support for the designation, given the regional service aspect of the airport.
Hagerstown Regional Airport Manager, Carolyn Motz and Mahesh Kukata, project manager for URS, Inc. reviewed HGR's main Runway Improvement Program stating that the fill portion is more than 50% complete, putting it ahead of schedule and under budget. The second phase of the project will include the bridge components of the project and will be bid this summer.
The Commissioners, Hagerstown Mayor Bill Breichner and USM-H Director Dr. David Warner looked on as the Senator cut a ribbon formally opening her new Hagerstown office on the second floor of the USM-H facility.