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Planning Director's Blog - September 2015

Last Updated on Aug 28, 2015 at 4:42pm | Department of Planning & Land Management

The focus of this month’s blog is on Chapter 8: Community Facilities.  The purpose of this chapter is to describe community facilities and services in Garrett County, including educational facilities, public safety (fire, police & EMS), health care, solid waste and libraries. 
 
The stated goal for community facilities in the 2008 Comprehensive Plan is to:
Provide a system of community facilities and services that is consistent with projected growth and development and the land use plan.
 
The objectives suggested for achieving this goal included:
  1. Maintain and upgrade school facilities to high standards.
  2. Expand higher educational opportunities in the County and facilities and services for community use at Garrett College.
  3. Provide adequate police, fire, and emergency medical services for residents and visitors.
  4. Provide high quality medical and health care facilities and services.
  5. Upgrade library facilities to meet space and service needs.
Education – Public School System
 
In the 2008 Comprehensive Plan an evaluation of enrollment trends and projections recognized a slow but steady decline since 1995.  Since that time the negative effects of a declining student population have been realized with the closing of Kitzmiller and Dennett Road elementary schools.  The public school system’s struggle has been exacerbated by declining state funds and a state wealth formula that has put Garrett County at a disadvantage.  Two questions appear in need of answering: 1) How do you reverse the decline of student enrollment? and 2) How do you maintain aging facilities with less funds?
 
The first question can only be evaluated using a holistic view of planning as student enrollment declines are based on the reality of an aging population and a lack of employment opportunities and/or housing options for families with school-aged children.  These issues are better addressed in the Economic Development and Housing areas of the plan.
 
The second question was addressed in the 2008 Comprehensive Plan and is mentioned in the objectives, which include maintaining and upgrading school facilities in spite of system-wide enrollment declines.  The Plan stresses the need for the County and the Board of Education to work together to address their facility needs.  As the state’s contribution declines, the County has contributed more; however, the educational system has also been forced to make adjustments as the funding situation continues to be dire.
 
Education – Garrett College
 
Since the 2008 Comprehensive Plan, Garrett College has seen the construction of the Community Athletic and Recreation Center (CARC) on their campus.  This facility is open to the public and houses an indoor competition and recreation swimming pool, a basketball arena, workout/weight training areas and regulation practice and competition gymnasiums.  This facility also features meeting rooms open to the public and has housed graduation ceremonies for both public high schools in the county. 
 
The College has, however, seen a decrease in state funding that has severely affected their ability to provide services.  Its future sustainability will depend on partnerships in the community and with the County to ensure that their operations can continue to positively influence the community.
 
Fire/EMS
 
The primary issue and concern from the 2008 Comprehensive Plan is still an issue today.  The County is served by 15 fire and/or EMS stations staffed primarily by volunteers.  While the number, size and general geographical distribution of fire and EMS stations is adequate, a major issue faced by Garrett County is the decline in volunteerism.  The recommendation from the 2008 Plan was to support efforts to recruit and retain volunteer fire and EMS staff, augmented by paid providers where appropriate.
 
Public Safety
 
Recommendations from the 2008 Plan involved the implementation of mitigation projects which included revising the Emergency Operations and Hazardous Materials Response Plan, expanding the duties and involvement of the Local Emergency Planning Committee, and expanding training and exercise opportunities.
 
Law Enforcement
 
One recommendation was proffered in the 2008 Comprehensive Plan in regard to law enforcement and that was to consider a satellite office at Deep Creek Lake to meet the increased demand in that area due to the visitor population and number of second home owners.
 
Health Care
 
The 2008 Comprehensive Plan gave a short synopsis of existing facilities and services rendered at Garrett County Memorial Hospital.  It was recommended that the County work with the hospital to address future land needs for future expansion.  Since 2008 and most especially recently, the hospital has experienced expansion and has in fact initiated an affiliate relationship with West Virginia University Medicine.  To better showcase this affiliation Garrett County Memorial Hospital has changed its name to Garrett Regional Medical Center.
 
Solid Waste
 
The Department of Solid Waste and Recycling recently completed the update to its Solid Waste Management Plan.  That Plan can be viewed at https://www.garrettcounty.org/solid-waste-recycling/landfill-location-and-list-of-rates/ten-year-solid-waste-management-plan-1.  At the time of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan there was no need for a new landfill site.  The most recent plan considers expected growth through 2024 and examines what facility improvements or expansions might be needed.
 
Public Libraries
 
The 2008 Comprehensive Plan identified 3 public library facility needs.  The Oakland branch needed to consider expansion and upgrades.  The Friendsville branch needed renovation or a new facility.   The Kitzmiller branch was in need of renovation and possible expansion.
 
Please forward any thoughts or ideas about community facilities in Garrett County to myself, Deborah Carpenter, Director, Garrett County Planning & Land Management office.  My email is dcarpenter@garrettcounty.org. 
 
Next month’s blog will feature Chapter 9 of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan: Housing.