County To Fund Route 50 Access Study For Sports Complex; Environmental Report Found No Issues With Site

SNOW HILL – With an environmental assessment now complete, county officials agreed to have Route 50 access evaluated for the site of the proposed sports complex.

The Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-3 to spend slightly more than $28,000 to have a consultant evaluate Route 50 access options for the site of the county’s proposed sports complex.

“This is an important part of the whole process and it’s one of the things that the folks who live in that area are most concerned about,” Commissioner Josh Nordstrom said. “I think we need to move forward with this as soon as possible.”

Following the commissioners’ April decision to pursue the purchase of a 95-acre piece of property adjacent to Stephen Decatur High School for a sports complex, the county arranged for an environmental study of the property to identify any potential issues with the site. At this week’s meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Weston Young presented officials with a lengthy environmental site assessment report.

“To summarize, there were no recognized environmental conditions on the site itself,” Young said. “If there were, that’s where a phase two would come in where you would do soil borings…”

Young said the report did identify “potential recognized environmental conditions” on adjacent property.

“What it came down to is that there was a report of spills but the paperwork it didn’t bring any closure to any of those items,” he said. “They don’t know if it was cleaned up properly or not.”

As a result, the company that conducted the report recommended the county conduct soil borings on the edge of the sports complex site to make sure there were no issues.

Young went on to suggest that given the location of the property, the county engage a consultant to review Route 50 access options.

“Given the location and given the rural nature of Flower Street to the south, we are interested in identifying the best access points onto Route 50,” he said. “We’ve identified an engineering firm that is frequently utilized by Maryland Department of Transportation and State Highway Administration specifically. We feel they’d be the ideal firm to look at potential access points.”

Commissioner Jim Bunting said a simple phone call to the State Highway Administration (SHA) could determine whether there was any potential access to the site from Route 50. He added that plats showed just one access point on the property where farm equipment had been able to enter from Route 50.

“Conversations I’ve had, with the merging lane and the traffic going into Stephen Decatur, it’s going to be very, very difficult to have any type of entrance off of 50,” he said.

Bunting added that SHA had guidelines that dictated how far access points could be from intersections, guardrails and the like.

“I think they can probably give you a pretty good idea … if you can have an access on 50 and where it would have to go without spending all this money,” he said.

Commissioner Chip Bertino said county officials still needed to talk to representatives from the Town of Berlin about the proposed sports complex.

“It’s been several months now and there’s a lot of people who are concerned about this particular location,” he said.

He echoed Bunting’s assertions that county officials should simply reach out to SHA on their own.

“I just think that we could just as easily pick up the phone and get an answer to the question as opposed to spending $28,000 for something that may or may not come to fruition,” he said.

Young acknowledged the unknowns associated with the sports complex but indicated the access study could prove helpful. He said access to Route 50 would be determined by SHA officials in Baltimore, not the local SHA representatives.

“Access is determined in Baltimore by a completely different group,” he said. “This is helping us communicate to Baltimore ultimately.”

Bertino asked if the access study would result in access definitely being granted on Route 50.

“They are giving us the solutions that would most likely achieve approval from SHA,” Young replied.

Commissioner Bud Church spoke in support of moving forward with the study.

“This is just one step in the process — $28,000 is pennies compared to the value we’re going to get out of whether or not it will work,” he said.

The commissioners voted 4-3 to work with consulting firm Wallace Montgomery on a Route 50 access evaluation for the sports complex site.

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.