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Goodie Bag
Published On: 2/14/13

Thoughts From The Publisher's Desk

By: Steven Green via Maryland Coast Dispatch

What the Worcester County plans to do in regard to the new fees imposed on its schools in Berlin is going to be interesting. Additionally, the same goes for Atlantic General Hospital. As of now, their plans appear uncertain.

Last month Berlin agreed to form a stormwater utility to carry out improvement projects for its aging infrastructure with the goal to lessen the flooding woes the town often experiences. The goal is worthwhile, but the details of how the utility is going to be funded have divided the community. The fact is the utility and the projects it will be charged with carrying out are going to be largely funded on the back of commercial properties, such as small businesses, schools and health care facilities. Working off the assumption all properties pay the fees and a reasonable interest rate is obtained to finance the projects, approximately 80 percent of the utility’s cost will come from the commercial sector.

Consequently, there are some major concerns. How is the school system going to find the estimated annual fee of $14,825? That’s how much it’s going to be asked to pay under the town’s rate structure. How is AGH, a non-profit that operates under a cap fee system for the services it offers, going to come up with the annual cost $5,025? That’s how much it’s estimated to pay.

Attorney Hugh Cropper, a member of the AGH Board who represented the hospital during last month’s public hearing on the stormwater utility, said yesterday the hospital has not decided what it’s going to do as far as the new fees. Worcester County is also reportedly weighing its options, including a proposal that has been reportedly floated to deduct the fees from what the county gives to Berlin in annual grants.

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Two of my predictions for 2013 at the end of last year hit close to home for Worcester County Commissioner Virgil Shockley, who was quick to point out this week one of them has already been proven to be wrong.

One of the predictions in question was that the state would not erect a stop light at the troubled intersection of Routes 113 and 12. The other was that the county would not include funding for Snow Hill High School in its next budget. While the fate of the high school will be decided later this spring, word came down from the state this week that a stop light should be in place at the deadly intersection along Route 113 by July or so. It was reported public concerns as well as new crash data at the intersection led to the state’s change of heart.

That is one prediction I was glad to see turned out to be inaccurate. For what it’s worth, I hope I’m wrong on Snow Hill High as well. Maybe then Shockley will take my list down off his wall.

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Job creation is always touted as a major benefit when big construction projects that come with controversy are being considered.

I remember last year when state and local officials said the expansion of Ocean City’s convention center was going to lead to 400 new jobs. The problem is that may be accurate in the shortest of terms in the form of contract construction work and the like, but there were not 400 local positions created as a result of that expanded facility, which by all accounts is a tremendous addition to the town of Ocean City. I am not aware of any town jobs being created by the expansion actually, but the benefits of the project will be felt elsewhere throughout the town in the years to come.

Similar sort of general talk is now surrounding the Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, which appears to be on its way to approval in Annapolis this year.

During committee testimony this week, Gov. Martin O’Malley said, “Offshore wind would support 850 jobs during the construction period and it would allow us to create 160 permanent, good, local jobs once the turbines start spinning. And if we succeed in establishing Maryland as the regional manufacturing hub for wind turbines, we will create and sustain even more good jobs.”

I hope the governor is right.
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