Hancock briefs

November 14, 2002|by TARA REILLY

Audit reveals bookkeeping errors

An examination of Hancock's fiscal year 2002 financial statements turned up deficiencies in the town's accounting practices, according to the audit performed by Smith Elliott Kearns and Co.

A representative from the firm presented the findings to the Hancock Town Council Wednesday night.

According to the firm, the audit found numerous misstatements of account balances as a result of bookkeeping errors and postings to incorrect accounts.

The firm's recommendations on correcting the errors include self-checking and reviewing the postings to ensure accuracy.

The audit states the bookkeeping errors had occurred in the previous audit as well.

The town plans to follow the recommendations and schedule training for the town's accounting staff.

Other than the bookkeeping errors, the town's audit came back clean, the report states.

Report outlines impact of Rail Trail on Hancock

The Hancock Town Council heard a report from the Urban Research and Development Corp. about the economic impact of the town's Western Maryland Rail Trail at Wednesday's meeting.


The group's nine-month study included determining the financial impact on the town and the trail's potential impact, identifying ways to market the trail and what improvements may be needed to boost interest in the trail.

"I can't think of a more wonderful resource ... it involves the whole community," said Tom Palmer of Urban Research.

The group's study found that the trail draws 76,000 visitors a year.

Of the number of annual visitors, 46 percent use the trail for bicycling, 44 percent for walking, 3 percent for rollerblading and 7 percent use it for other activities.

The trail generates an estimated $278,000 to $458,000 in annual total expenditures to the town.

The report stated that with proper marketing, the number of annual visits could increase to more than 140,000. It states the town needs to spread the word about the trail regionally and nationally and attract more community involvement and leadership. The suggestions included more special event programming, marketing tie-ins with Fort Frederick, weekend tourist packages, and trail-user discount coupons.

Traffic ordinance changes discussed

The Hancock Town Council held a public hearing Wednesday night on the proposed changes to the town's Traffic and Motor Vehicles Ordinance, which includes new parking restrictions and possibly putting a boot on cars belonging to owners who repeatedly do not pay tickets.

Hancock Police Chief Donald Gossage said many of the parking restrictions added to the town's ordinance are already included in the state's ordinance. However, without the restrictions in the town's ordinance, the town would not be able to collect the revenue generated by violations of those restrictions.

The restrictions would include making it unlawful for a person to park or leave any vehicle on any street or alley within town limits for more than 72 consecutive hours; and prohibiting a person from parking or stopping their vehicle in Widmeyer Park, Gerber Field, lagoons or Kirk Wood Park between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. without permission from the police department.

The proposed ordinance changes also state that ATVs, motorcycles and other vehicles designed for off-road use are not permitted on property owned or leased by the town without permission of the Town Council.

Mayor Daniel A. Murphy said the proposed ordinance changes will be discussed at the town's meeting in December.

Council puts new cruiser on hold

The Hancock Town Council unanimously tabled a request from Police Chief Donald Gossage to purchase a 2003 police cruiser from an Augusta, Ga., dealership.

Gossage said the cruiser would cost $25,068 plus an additional $800 for the car's police radio. He said the new cruiser is necessary to replace a broken 1996 cruiser with 128,000 miles on it.

The town normally purchases a new cruiser every two years, officials said.

A motion to purchase the cruiser died after Councilmen Greg Yost and Darwin Mills questioned whether the town could afford it.

The first payment on the car would be due in August 2003, Gossage said.

"I don't know where all the money's going to come from," Mills said.

Yost said Wednesday night was the first he heard of the proposal and questioned whether the town would be able to afford the cruiser and proposed increases to the police department's retirement package next fiscal year.

The Town Council agreed to wait until the town's Police Commission discusses the cruiser before it makes a decision.

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