Shade addresses State of the County

CUMBERLAND — Allegany County Commission President Jake Shade highlighted fiscal achievements, broadband upgrades, economic development initiatives and infrastructure improvements as some of the county's major accomplishments over the past year in the annual State of the County address.

"Overall, Allegany County government is financially sound," Shade said during Thursday's commission meeting at the county building on Kelly Road. "Our fund balance is intact and our debt affordability calculations remain on target."

Currently, officials show a $26 million fund balance while maintaining less than $3 million in debt annually.  

"Our board continued to adopt and apply a conservative approach to fiscal matters," Shade said, "while fulfilling its commitment to deliver core local government services in an efficient and equitable manner."

Shade indicated that a possible result of the conservative approach is the county's good bond rating for a multimillion-dollar loan in 2017.

"Our board secured the Public Improvement Bond of 2017 for $9 million, 15 years, 2.867 percent," he said. "This will be used for a number of projects."

One of the projects funded by the loan is a $5 million safety communications upgrade for county emergency medical services.

"This demonstrates understanding of and commitment to public safety," Shade said.  

In addition to financial success, he said the county invested in broadband infrastructure by upgrading to Allconet core networking, meaning data travels faster.

Officials also upgraded internet service at the Allegany County Fairgrounds, expanding Wi-Fi access to better accommodate events held at the location, including the largest county tourist attraction — DelFest.

The bluegrass festival is held at the fairgrounds each year on Memorial Day weekend, bringing in tens of thousands of fans and millions in economic impact. In 2017, officials signed a long-term contract with festival namesake Del McCoury and his management company Rainmaker Inc., securing the event in Allegany County through 2022.

"DelFest celebrated its 10th year in Allegany County," Shade said, "and a new five-year contract was signed.

"County government extends its deepest appreciation to Del McCoury and the DelFest Foundation for significant and ongoing contributions to our community. Overall, tourism continues to grow and be an important component of economic development activity." 

A number of economic and community development projects were discussed as part of the address, including investment brought on by the state's medical marijuana industry. 

Last year, medical marijuana growing operation Grow West MD, operating as Manticorp LLC, partnered with the county by setting up business at the Riverside Industrial Park — the former Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. site that was last occupied by Biederlack of America. Beyond growing operations, Allegany Medical Marijuana Dispensary opened on Beall Street in the former Moose Lodge, serving its first patients in December.

Officials also mentioned renewed lease agreements with companies such as Netherlands-based Specs Chemical Services Inc., Sierra Hygiene Products LLC and Nebraska-based Hamilton Relay.

Finally, 141 more county households in the areas of Barrelville, Prince Albert/Sunnyside, Midlothian and Cumberland now have access to county-supplied drinking water after water lines were extended 4 1/2 miles, Shade said. 

Other actions at the meeting included:

• Officials approved a contract for new Allegany County Administrator Brandon Butler, effective March 1 through Feb. 28, 2021, with an annual salary of $115,000.

• County commissioners awarded the Bedford Road Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation Phase V project to Carl Belt Inc., Cumberland, in the amount of $1,097,115, subject to the approval of the Maryland Department of the Environment. The board also authorized the commission president to sign any and all necessary contract agreements or documents.

The next county commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 8 at 5 p.m.

Follow staff writer Heather Wolford on Twitter @heatherbwolford.