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Washington County briefs

January 13, 2009

Commissioners to continue ag preservation program discontinued by state



The Washington County Commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday to continue on the county level an agricultural preservation district program discontinued by the state.

Until recently, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program preserved farmland by purchasing permanent easements, which permanently restrict the land to agricultural use, and by entering five- and 10-year district agreements, which place temporary limitations, land preservation planner Eric Seifarth said. On July 1, the state eliminated the district agreements aspect of its program, allowing counties to decide whether to continue offering district agreements, Seifarth said.

The ordinance approved Tuesday will continue the 10-year district agreements on the county level, which will allow landowners to continue to take advantage of a tax credit while waiting to be chosen for an easement sale.

University System of Maryland at Hagerstown scholarship criteria decided



The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday decided on the criteria for awarding a University System of Maryland at Hagerstown scholarship to be funded partially by the county.

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The scholarship will be available to those who have lived in the county for at least one year and who graduated from a Washington County high school or a two-year college program in the county. To be eligible, applicants must have a 2.5 minimum GPA and a household income of less than $75,000. Preference will be given to applicants who are active in the community.

Ten $2,500 scholarships will be available for the fall, said Brad Sell, executive director of the Community Foundation of Washington County, which will help administer the scholarship. The scholarship will be advertised next month and awards will be announced in the spring, Sell said.

The scholarship is enough to cover tuition for one full-time semester or two part-time semesters of two classes each, according to USM-H Executive Director David Warner.

Money for this year's scholarships was raised by the Elizabethtowne Feaste and Frolic event in September, Sell said. The county donated $50,000 to the scholarship fund, but that money will not be available until 2011, when the Waltersdorf/Henson challenge ends, Sell said. At that point, the county's donations will be doubled and the money will be used to fund $5,000 scholarships, he said.

County recognized for budget work



The Washington County Commissioners and the county's budget and finance director were selected for an international award recognizing effective budget presentation, Commissioners President John F. Barr said.

The county was one of 1,127 entities in the U.S. and Canada to receive the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for their fiscal year 2006 budgets, the association said in a news release.

Barr presented a certificate to Budget and Finance Director Debra S. Murray on Tuesday.

- Heather Keels

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