Worcester Not Interested In Rural Coalition

BERLIN — Four Western Maryland counties have formed a coalition in the hopes of presenting a unified voice in Annapolis and are seeking to expand the organization to the Eastern Shore, but at least one Lower Shore county appears to have little interest in joining the party.

Elected officials in Carroll, Frederick, Alleghany and Washington counties last week announced the formation of the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition, a union of sorts formed in the hopes of giving rural Maryland a stronger voice in Annapolis during the upcoming General Assembly session. The coalition was formed out of the rural counties’ shared opposition to the governor’s proposed Plan Maryland, which has come under fire from rural areas in every corner of the state.

In a larger sense, however, the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition is an effort by the agrarian areas apart from the highly developed, urban and suburban central areas of the state, a unified voice on several issues likely to surface during the upcoming session. The coalition is an effort to combine the collective resources of the counties involved.

“Rural Maryland often finds itself at a strategic disadvantage from policy decisions made by the Maryland General Assembly because the non-rural counties often speak as one, thus prevailing,” said Frederick County Commission President Blaine Young this week.

Similarly, Washington County Commission President Terry Baker called the Rural Maryland Coalition a “historic first” and an unprecedented opportunity for other rural counties to join. “Can one truly imagine the strength of such a strategic alliance,” he said.

Already the four-member coalition has designs on adding to that strength with an expansion to include all rural counties on both sides of the bridge. The original four are hoping to expand to an Association of Western, Agricultural, Rural and Eastern Shore Counties, or AWARE, with the purpose of representing the unique needs and perspectives of the rural areas of the state.

The coalition is reaching out to the rural counties on the Lower Shore including Worcester and Wicomico, but while the counties clearly share some of the same ideas, particularly when it comes to Plan Maryland, they are not exactly embracing the idea of joining the coalition.

“We are definitely aware of it and we know a little bit about it, but we’re not interested in joining at this time,” said Worcester County Administrator Gerry Mason. “There hasn’t been any discussion among the commissioners and I don’t think there’s any sentiment in favor of it.”