County Approves Program’s Grant Request

SNOW HILL – Satisfied the state would continue to pony up its share, at least in the current fiscal cycle, county officials on Tuesday approved a requested $200,000 in-kind matching grant for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP).

The MCBP is in the process of applying for National Estuary Program grant funding for the time period of October 2008 to September 2009, but in order to qualify for the $591,000-plus in federal funding, the local program must provide an in-kind amount from non-federal sources including the state and county. Last year, Worcester contributed $200,000 for its share of the in-kind match and MCBP officials were in Snow Hill on Tuesday seeking a similar commitment from the county.

Before the county would commit to the in-kind match, however, some officials wondered if the other entities would be able to hold up their end of the bargain.

“Are anticipated funds from other sources going to be there?” asked Commissioner Judy Boggs.

Worcester Director of Comprehensive Planning Sandy Coyman told the elected officials the county’s share for the MCBP is typically paid out of the county’s Rural Legacy Program funds, and despite major cuts by the state for the program, the funding would be in place for the next fiscal year.

“Rural Legacy was cut dramatically to around $13 million in the upcoming budget,” he said. “The good news is, we’re going by last year’s budget, which was something like $21 million. In this particular year, we’ll get over $1 million.”

With assurances the funding would be there, the commissioners voted to approve the $200,000 in-kind match for the Coastal Bays Program. The commissioners were all over the map on Tuesday handling a wide variety of county issues. The following are some of the highlights of what was discussed and acted upon:

-The commissioners introduced emergency legislation to amend an Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area mapping mistake for a vast 400-acre-plus property along Assawoman Bay and the St. Martin’s River.

The historic, pristine piece of waterfront property in northern Worcester County was bought at auction by a Virginia developer, Lillian Rios, for $8.7 million in April 2006, and a subsequent review of the land included in the property revealed a potential critical areas mapping error that could effect what could eventually become of the property. The issue relates to a pond on the property that is designated as tidal on one set of wetlands maps and non-tidal on another.

In order to clarify the nature of the property and ostensibly its future use, county officials on Tuesday introduced legislation aimed at correcting the mapping error. It remains uncertain what the property owner has planned for the land if anything, although a request to correct the mapping suggests something is in the offing.

-The commissioners on Tuesday rejected the offer of a Holiday Harbor resident to dedicate an easement at the end of his dead-end street for the creation of a cul-de-sac to facilitate a turn-around for the county school bus route there for fear accepting the offer might open a can of worms.

After consulting with school officials and bus drivers, county officials realized cul-de-sacs were not favored for school bus turn-arounds because of their narrow turns and the propensity for vehicles to park in them. Instead, school officials and bus drivers prefer bus stops be located at marked intersections for safety and ease of turn movements.

County officials accepted the recommendation and voted not to accept the offer from the Holiday Harbor resident. Incidentally, county staff identified 87 dead-end streets in Worcester where the same situation could have applied if they had decided to accept the offer.