County Approves Land Use Accord For School Fields

SNOW HILL – County officials approved a land use agreement with the school system in an effort to maintain state funding levels.

On Tuesday, the Worcester County Commissioners approved a joint use agreement with the Worcester County Board of Education regarding the use of school system property for county recreation activities. Director of Recreation and Parks Tom Perlozzo said that by putting the agreement in place, the county would ensure that Program Open Space funding levels didn’t decrease.

According to Perlozzo, when the county’s recent Land Preservation Parks and Recreation Plan had been completed, it identified a deficit in field space in the northern part of the county. Based on the plan, the county is short 18 acres and four fields of recreational space. When state officials became aware of the deficit, they notified the county that instead of the past Program Open Space formula — through which the state provided 90 percent of project funding while the county provided 10 percent — the county would be receiving 75 percent of funding and would be expected to provide 25 percent itself.

“We assumed if we were in deficit it’d be 90/10,” Perlozzo said. “It just didn’t work that way.”

Perlozzo said he’d contacted state officials to determine what the county had to do to retain the 90/10 funding formula. They advised him to address the county’s field deficit by establishing a land use agreement with the local school system.

Bob Mitchell, the county’s director of environmental programs, said his department had helped draft the land preservation plan.  He said staff had simply honestly listed the county’s recreational resources.

“Ours correctly showed the deficit,” he said, adding that staff didn’t realize that deficit would impact Program Open Space funding. He indicated the state hadn’t made local jurisdictions aware of program details. “They’re holding it to a standard nobody knows about.”

The agreement approved this week states that the county and the board of education will cooperate in coordinating programs and activities. It allows the county to use board of education property without charge for “community recreational and educational purposes” but specifies that the recreational needs of school-aged children will be top priority.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.