Friday, June 18–County Takes Over South Welcome Center

SNOW HILL – The Pocomoke
Welcome Center at the Maryland-Virginia line will remain open under Worcester
auspices, the County Commissioners officially decided this week.

The commissioners voted
5-1, with Commissioner Judy Boggs dissenting and Commissioner Bobby Cowger
absent, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) governing the county
takeover of the state of Maryland Pocomoke Welcome Center on Route 13. The
county’s tourism department, starting July 1, will manage the welcome center.

The state will provide a
$50,000 grant to the county for welcome center operations. The county must
match that amount to receive the grant.

County staff have
identified some savings at the center, including the elimination of the T-1
Internet line, as well as reductions on cleaning service costs and pest

Pocomoke has offered to
waive water and sewer fees and also offered staffing help. The town will pay
rent for a display at the center, which will bring in about $2,400 a year.

Some details, such as
staffing, are still to be settled. County administrator Gerry Mason said he did
not know how the county would handle the welcome center employees, who will be
officially laid off from their state jobs at the end of June. Those workers
could be hired on a contract basis, but nothing has been decided.

The MOU is the first
step in allowing the county to make some of those decisions, Tourism Director
Lisa Challenger said.

“I can say the staff
down there has been extremely cooperative,” said Challenger.

It would be a great
benefit to the county if those employees agreed to come back since they know
the building and the operation of the center, she added.

A number of people have
offered to volunteer at the welcome center, said Commissioner Bud Church,
including Shirley Pilchard, widow of the late Delegate Mark Pilchard who was
instrumental in establishing the center.

“I think volunteers are
going to be very necessary,” said Challenger.

The center is currently
open Thursday to Sunday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“I think they absolutely
should be open seven days through Labor Day,” Challenger said.

“We should be able to
cover the bases with paid employees and volunteers,” said Commissioner Linda

Operations would then be
re-evaluated after the height of the season.

“I’m really pleased to
see the county has created some efficiencies here, that Berlin is being
involved and Pocomoke is being involved,” said Boggs. “I think it’s making the
best of a bad bargain.”

Boggs said she did not
support taking over the welcome center, because it is simply another case of
the state shifting responsibilities to the counties.

“We will never get rid
of this cost,” said Boggs.

The MOU is for one-year
only, said County Commission President Bud Church.

That document would need
to be ratified again next summer and is not in perpetuity.

Boggs said she is sick
and tired of the state pushing its responsibilities onto the counties. If the
state cannot financially sustain something, then the counties can’t either,
Boggs said.