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Bond bill seeks $175,000 from state for improvements at C&O National Historical Park in Williamsport

February 19, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — A bond bill introduced by Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, during the current session of the Maryland General Assembly seeks $175,000 from the state for improvements to Lock 44, Lockhouse 44 and the Maryland Railroad Lift Bridge, as part of improvements to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Williamsport.

The senator introduced a similar bond bill last year, requesting $320,000 at the request of the National Park Service, but that bill was only partially funded.

“We got $175,000 last year,” Edwards said. “We didn’t get it all … So we put in another bill to get some more funding.”

“The current bond bill, if funded, will allow us to match that amount to complete repairs to Lock 44, including the water supply to make the lock functional for our canal launch boat program,” Kevin Brandt, superintendent of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, said in an email.

Brandt said James G. McCleaf, the mayor of Williamsport, and Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, were in Annapolis recently to talk to legislators and officials about funding for the C&O Canal improvements.

“I have had numerous conversations with Mayor McCleaf about the other projects we would like to accomplish in the Williamsport area,” Brandt said.

“These other projects will restore historic canal features and collectively make Williamsport a more attractive destination for the 4.7 million (parkwide) visitors who visit the C&O Canal each year,” he said.

According to a document from the National Park Service, the restoration of the lift bridge is expected to cost $2.2 million. This includes repairing and painting the bridge and replacing its deck.

The 2013 legislative agenda of the Washington County Community Coalition — an advocacy group that includes the Washington County government and the City of Hagerstown — included asking for $1 million for restoration of the C&O canal structures in Williamsport.

This included restoration of C&O Canal structures such as Lock 44, Lockhouse 44 and the Concocheague Aqueduct.

“We felt that Sen. Edwards’ bill (for this session) was sufficient in light of the other needs of the community,” said Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, and the chairman of the Washington County delegation.

Serafini said that in the past, the delegation was against some bond bills because “we did not want to borrow our way through financial difficulties.”

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