The Board of the Garrett County Commissioners provided a “County Update” to the Garrett County Chamber Business Before Hours event that was held on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
As a brief refresher: the fiscal year 2022 budget is a total of $87,630,101 with $1 million in operations and $4.4 million in capital. This year, no Reserves were used to balance the budget and there was no tax rate increase.
Regarding the details of the Garrett County Government Budget, Commissioner Edwards pointed out that line-item revenues and expenses were discussed at the budget hearings this past spring. Overall, requests were $2.9 million over projected revenues with $1.6 million requested from outside agencies.
Commissioner Edwards reviewed just a few bullet points related to the budget:
- State mandates in the budget total $879,799
- Education is 42% of the total budget at $35,640,320 (an increase of $874,226)
- Board of Education increase of $704,269 for a total of $28,874,363
- Public Works is 20% of the total budget at $17,251,038 (an increase of $2 million for primarily paving efforts)
- Public Safety is 15% of the total budget at $13,302,043 (an increase of $671,699)
- General Government is 7% of the total budget at $6,505,425 (a decrease of $26,373)
“We appreciate each and every employee and their work to help us balance this budget,” said Commissioner Edwards. “Our diligence is paying off with an overall decrease to the general government line.”
Commissioner Jim Hinebaugh reported on the newly restructured Garrett County Business Development Department (formerly the Department of Economic Development).
The Business Development Specialist, Josh Hook, is working with municipalities and has started business outreach and visits. This position works directly with county organizations to connect resources, find additional grant funding, and continue to build a robust economic infrastructure in the county.
Commissioner Hinebaugh reported briefly on several recently completed infrastructure projects:
- Keyser’s Ridge water storage tank construction has been completed
- Keyser’s Ridge wastewater treatment facility construction has been completed and the plant is on-line
- McHenry spec building is a 20,000 square feet facility with rental space, from 6,500 to 20,000 square feet, available for businesses. This building has been used as the central COVID-19 testing and vaccination site for the Garrett County Health Department.
- The recently completed Thayerville / McHenry Water Connection supplements the Deep Creek Water System by way of making surplus water in the Thayerville Water System available to the McHenry Water System. A line was installed under the Deep Creek Lake at the Route 219 bridge and the connection is operational.
- Competitive Power Ventures will develop a 175-megawatt solar farm on a reclaimed strip mine at Route 135 and Route 38 known as the Backbone Solar Project. This $200 million project will provide enough electricity to power over 30,000 homes. Construction is projected to begin in the second quarter of 2022 and take approximately 18 months to complete. In addition to 150-200 construction jobs, the company will purchase goods and services in the community, whenever possible.
An indicator of economic health is building permits and from January to June of 2021, there were 399 single family home permits with a value of $34,645,073. This is up from the same period in 2020 where there were 295 single family home permits with a value of $10,577,009.
Regarding real estate transactions, in 2020 the number of units sold increased 44 % over 2019 and the trend continues. The average sold price in 2020 was $458,563, an increase of 25% over 2019 prices. There were 51 homes valued over $1 million sold in 2020 and 145 homes sold between $500,000-$1 million. The County has processed 3,236 deeds in the last 12 months.
Commissioner Hinebaugh also reported that there is significant funding flowing due to COVID-19. A total of $2,228,297 was awarded across 303 grants to small businesses:
- Business Assistance Grant: 129 grants approved; $307,750
- PPE Grant: 43 grants approved; $42,250
- Restaurant Relief Grant: 85 grants approved; $774,373
- Hotel Relief Grant: 21 grants approved; 978,379
- Online Sales & Telework Assistance Grant: 1 grant approved; $2,372.13
- MD Recovery NOW Nonprofit Grant: 14 grants approved; $95,953
- General Small Business Grants: 3 grants approved; $22,500
- Agriculture Marketing Grants: 7 grants approved; $4,720.39
In Garrett County, unemployment reported for May 2021 is at 5.0%. The State unemployment is 5.8% and the national average is 5.5%. This is significantly lower from the May 2020 Garrett number of 10.4% and among the lowest unemployment has ever been.
“Right now, the COVID-19 grants have given us a boost but we cannot sit back and wait. We will be updating our economic development strategic plan,” said Commissioner Hinebaugh. “Let’s use this funding shot in the arm as time to create a plan that will propel Garrett County into the future.”
Commissioner Larry Tichnell reported details about the capital projects that will be progressing over the next few months.
As part of the American Rescue Plan Act the county received $5.6 million to respond to or mitigate the COVID-19 health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, nonprofits, and aid for tourism, travel, and hospitality. Along with other specific assistance, the County will be making the necessary investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
Utilizing a portion of this funding, upcoming water and sewer projects total $1.4 million, the Swallow Falls Bridge replacement project total is $5 million and the Glendale Road realignment total is $2.2 million.
Also, Commissioner Tichnell reported that the Western Maryland Delegation obtained $2 million for the Arrowhead Cove pilot dredging project; currently in the permitting process.
Our delegation has been working for Garrett County as congressional earmarks total about $22 million. This is made up of infrastructure projects ($7 million plus $12 million for the Sang Run Road Bridge), broadband expansion ($1.7 million), trails projects ($1.3 million) and a Congressional Infrastructure Bill-if and when passed. The local delegation also obtained over $2.5 million for new athletic fields at both Northern and Southern high schools.
Comissioner Tichnell also reported that Program Open Space received $298,124 plus an additional one-time funding of $1 million. This indicates that several communities and municipalities will receive funding for the planning, acquisition, and/or development of recreation land or open space areas.
“This is dear to my heart as I am on the board for Garrett Trails,” said Commissioner Tichnell. “Being able to get this funding out to communities across the county is a great thing.”
Additional information can be found on the Garrett County Government website at www.GarrettCounty.org or by calling 301-334-8970.