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Washington Co. to forfeit $400K federal grant to Garrett Co.

In exchange, Garrett Co. will forego TEA-21 funding next year

May 19, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County officials have agreed to forfeit $400,000 in grant funding to Garrett County this year in hopes of getting a larger share of the same funding next year.

The $400,000 in federal "TEA-21" funding was allocated to Washington County for an access road to the Mount Aetna Farms property, Commissioner James F. Kercheval said. That project is unlikely to be ready to use the funding before it expires, so county officials worked out the shift to keep the funding in Western Maryland, Kercheval said Tuesday.

In exchange, Garrett County will forgo getting any TEA-21 funding next year, leaving a larger share for Washington County, Kercheval said. The Tri-County Council of Western Maryland, which administers TEA-21 funds for Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, expects to have $1 million to distribute next year and will reserve $600,000 of that for Washington County, Kercheval said.

Funding from TEA-21, or the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, is distributed through the Appalachian Regional Commission for access roads that open up land for additional development that would create jobs for citizens, said Timothy R. Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

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Mount Aetna Farms is a 222-acre property between Hagerstown Community College and Robinwood Medical Center. Plans for a road system to open the property to development have stalled under debate about the future of the land and whether the county should buy it as a site for a new high school.

To keep the $400,000 from this year, Washington County officials would have to submit a detailed project plan by the end of May, Troxell said.

"Luckily, Garrett County, I guess, is sitting on a project that is teed up and ready to go," he said.

The Washington County commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to approve the funding swap and to submit a road realignment in Maugansville as their preferred project for next year's $600,000.

Commissioners Terry Baker and William J. Wivell voted against that motion. Baker and Wivell had advocated buying the property and building roads as soon as possible.

The project the commissioners voted to submit is the realignment of the portion of Shawley Drive between Label Lane and Maugans Avenue so it aligns with Oliver Drive and is farther away from Interstate 81 ramps. The intersection of Shawley Drive and Label Lane also will be improved.

The relocation and intersection upgrade are needed before any additional commercial development can occur on the HUB Business Park property and surrounding commercial parcels along I-81, according to a project description from the county's public works department.

That full project is estimated at about $2.5 million. As part of an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance agreement, the project is receiving $219,000 in developer contributions, according to the county's Capital Improvement Plan. The right-of-way is being provided at no cost to the county through a developer agreement, the plan says.

Another $200,000 grant the county received this year for the Mount Aetna Farms access road can be redirected to a different project, Troxell said.

The commissioners agreed to put that funding toward making a site at Hagerstown Regional Airport developer-ready.

That funding came from an Area Development Project grant, which is also awarded through the Appalachian Regional Commission, Troxell said.

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