Wicomico Towns Seek Circuit Rider Position

SALISBURY – Grant funding for a two-year circuit rider position is expected to benefit the towns of Sharptown, Pittsville and Willards.

In a Wicomico County Council meeting Tuesday, officials were presented with a request to accept a grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development in the amount of $97,185 to fund the salary of a person who will work with the three towns for two years to conduct daily operations.

Regional staff from the Maryland Department of Planning Lower Eastern Shore submitted a grant application on behalf of the three municipalities.

Once hired, the individual, also referred to as a circuit rider, will rotate among the three towns to provide professional assistance.

The county has been requested to serve as a grant recipient for the funding.

Jack Lenox, Wicomico County’s director of planning, zoning and community development, told the council any approval of grant money must go through the council to be incorporated into the budget.

“This is a type of topic that you would have seen through the budget process if the communities had sought the grant several months earlier,” he said.

Lenox said the county had no financial obligation, but a final contract for the grant agreement will be subject to review.

Council President John Cannon asked about the circuit rider position.

“What would you say are the primary functions of the individual?” he said.

Lenox replied the person’s responsibility would differ from town to town.

“I think it is different for each of the communities,” he said. “Each of them has their own strengths and some challenges.”

Lenox explained that Pittsville and Willards might need help with comprehensive plans and zoning, whereas Sharptown might need help with its implementation.

“The good thing is it is up to the communities and it will give some technical support for them that they don’t have right now,” he said.

Councilman Joe Holloway asked Lenox about the circuit rider’s offices.

“Will this individual be working in your office?” he said.

Lenox replied the circuit rider would have desk space at each location.

“They will have office space available to them, probably a desk in a conference room in the three town halls,” he said, “but we will process the paperwork through our office and through our finance department.”

The council voted 5-0, with Councilmen Matt Holloway and John Hall absent, to accept the grant funding.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.