City council, mayor outline goals, discuss tax rates, economy

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CUMBERLAND — The Cumberland mayor and City Council held a public work session Tuesday evening to share their goals for the city in a informal setting and to promote public input.

Some of the city’s proposed goals included the elimination of the use of tax anticipation notes as a method of remaining financially solvent, the creation of an Environmental Relations Commission targeted with recycling initiatives and green space creation and retention, a blighted property “amnesty” program, economic development, population growth, capturing bio-technology jobs, fixing roads and collaborating with the county to work on reaching these proposed goals.

Council members were in agreement that taxes needed to be cut and not raised.

“The city needs to have a credit line,”?said Mayor Brian Grim. “We be more self-sufficient when it comes to finances.  We need to eliminate loans and tax anticipation notes to better structure our finances.”

“I get so tired of Cumberland getting the black eye over their tax rates. I don’t want to see taxes increase at all this year,” said Councilman Butch Hendershot. “People go and live outside of the city and the state because of our tax rate. We do offer a lot of services, but it costs a lot of money to provide these services. I would like to see taxes lowered by at least a penny every year.”  

Councilwoman Mary Beth Pirolozzi questioned how to lower taxes and agreed that the services they provided were indeed important. She noted that 60 percent of the money went toward public safety.

“Is tax regressive, and is there something we can do to make it better?” asked Pirolozzi. “From my experience with the community, I have consistently heard that we people live here for the police and fire protection. We have one of the finest police departments.”

Grim suggested reducing fees for citizens by going from a twice-a-week trash pickup to a once-a-week pickup and limit the number of bags allowed, and also thus creating a greater drive to recycle.  

“If we cut trash fees, we can find away to put the money saved from this back into the pockets of the citizens,” said Grim.

Grim asked whether anything could be done about the garbage contract that the city currently has. The city is in its second year of the three-year deal and could get out of the contract according to Jeff Repp, city administrator.

Butch Hendershot supported Grim’s thought on recycling, “We need to have a city-managed garbage collection as opposed to a contractor.”

Repp, however, disagreed and noted that the proposed change would yield little to no savings and the only thing that would produce a savings might be a tipping fee.

Reducing blight and improving infrastructure was yet another goal for the city.

“When I come off of I-68 onto Baltimore Avenue I am not impressed with the way the properties look,”?Grim said. “When it comes to a point when a house has been in disrepair for 10 to 15 years we need to do something major to fix it.” Grim said these property issues could be fixed by absolving taxes or by utilizing an amnesty program. Other aesthetic concerns were the underpass on Virginia Avenue and Canal Place.

“I am not satisfied with the way Canal Place looks. Like it or not, it’s the entrance to the city,” said Councilman Nick Scarpelli. “It takes just 30 seconds to make a initial  first impression.”

All council members were in agreement that they needed to work with the county and all other levels of government in order to obtain these goals.

“The city needs to build their relationship with county and federal officials. We need to work together with all levels of government — this is truly the best way forward for us,” said Grim.

“We need to schedule a meeting with county and city. I don’t think it would hurt to get together to break bread and talk about common issues,” said Hendershot.

The meeting was the very first of many meetings the council hopes to hold.

“I am very excited about this meeting.  We are trying  to be more transparent, less formal and more engaging,” said Hendershot. “In the 16 years I’ve been here, this is the first time we have ever held a meeting like this.”

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .