Economic development focus of City Council's public work session

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Cumberland Times-News, Elaine Blaisdell

CUMBERLAND — City council members were in agreement at Tuesday’s public work session that population growth, in particular, residents with college degrees, is one of the key components in regard to the economic development of the city.

“I think population growth is critical,” said Mayor Brian Grim.

“I think it’s number one. We need to rebrand the city (with education) from it’s image as a post-industrial town,” said councilman, David Kauffman. “Post-secondary education is the very population that is going to grow the city. The misnomer to this growth is that we are doing it to get jobs.  Education in and of itself is an industry, it’s the fifth largest industry in the country.”

Councilman Nick Scarpelli suggested actively working with the already existing education facilities like Allegany College of Maryland and Frostburg State University to expand their programs.

“I still feel we should utilize the talents in the area. We have many people who serve on boards at both the state and federal level that bring something to the table,” said Scarpelli. “We have a willing citizenry and we should use those resources to move forward.”

“I have no desire to undercut the educational institutions already in place. We should ask them if they want to be a part of this initiative,” added Kauffman.

Kauffman suggested seeking help from local officials and the state delegation on the education initiative in order to “prevent Cumberland from being the poorest county in the state.”

“It is going to taken a Herculanian effort on the city’s part to get legislation involved in education,” said resident Larry Jackson.

Councilwoman Mary Beth Pirolozzi said statewide broadband and the reuse of Memorial Hospital are also important for development.

“Statewide broadband is very important. We need it to make a lot of things happen,” said Pirolozzi. “One piece that is a drain is the Memorial Hospital reuse. Filling or selling it needs to be on the top of our radar screen.”

Also discussed during the meeting were they city’s finances.

“Cuts in the highway user revenue have caused us to look at our finances more closely,” said Pirolozzi. “We need to look at the use of our TAN (Tax Anticipation Note), how to eliminate our reliance on it and look at leaner government that is more responsive and less expensive. We need to work at being more accountable and look at the bottom line. We need to establish cash reserve opportunities that go back into a percentage to reduce budget to maintain a constant yield.”

Pirolozzi also suggested reducing finances by looking at personnel in regard to potential retirement and contractual positions and by combining services with the county, especially in regard to taxing and permits and planing.

“We need to make it a one stop shop,” she said.

“I want to make the message clear that we have no desire to cut jobs or people,” added Kauffman.

Grim suggested capping top salaries (setting a range on salaries) in order to alleviate fianancial prolems.


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