2012 Accomplishments In Review

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City of Cumberland

2012 Accomplishments in Review

Delivered at the December 18, 2012 Public City Council Meeting

 

It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by.  During 2012, this Council has worked together to continue to advance goals and move our city forward.

2012 has been a busy year, continuing with several initiatives that were originally developed by the Council in 2011 during public visioning sessions.  I’m happy to report that we continue to achieve the goals set from those sessions.  And while our first calendar year meeting of 2013 would have been January 1 and is canceled, I believe that the incoming Council members, along with Councilman Scarpelli, Councilman Kauffman, and I can sit down for some new visioning and goal setting for the city, early in the year.

Cumberland’s planning department remained busy throughout the year, approving a major site plan for the proposed Love’s Travel Plaza to be located on the former Turano Property on Ali Ghan Road.  The department invested a significant amount of time into development of the first volume of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan, including the Neighborhood Element, which was drafted after a series of several weeks worth of meetings with neighborhood organizations.  And, under the leadership of the City Planner, the National Road Monument was installed at Riverside Park and formally dedicated with a ceremony that hosted Senator Cardin, Congressman Bartlett, and a host of other local and state officials.  Much of the landscaping and work around the parklet has also been complete and nearly all of the expense was paid through local fundraising efforts and grant funding.

And while last year, we celebrated the Bicentennial of the National Road and the Centennial of City Hall, this year, the City of Cumberland was honored by various government institutions and municipalities as Cumberland celebrated her 225th Birthday, having been Founded in 1787.

Economic development initiatives continued forward in 2012, under the five strategic initiatives developed by the Economic Development Commission and carried forward by the newly hired Economic Development Coordinator.  According to the economic development office, 35 small businesses opened in Cumberland in 2012 or expanded their operations in the city. Approximately 70 new private sector jobs were created as a result of small business development.  The city continues to work with post secondary education institutions to fill the Frederick Street property in Downtown Cumberland.  The city also continues to work to foster development at Canal Place, as it is considered to be part of Downtown Cumberland.

With the underutilization of the Memorial Hospital Campus, the city ultimately made the decision to move forward with plans to raze the building in large part.  Efforts to market the building for sale or transfer to private hands or for a greater community use as was suggested, such as for a veteran’s facility, were not successful.  With a loss now topping $300,000 annually for the facility to remain in the city’s hands, the decision to raze it came after a great deal of discussion and investigation into usefulness.

The city completed its commitment to the Allegany County Board of Education and Western Maryland Health System with the transfer of property on Willowbrook Road that will ultimately be the facilitating exchange to build a new Allegany High School in Cumberland.  Allegany High School is currently the oldest operating high school in the State of Maryland and will be replaced by the Board of Education to be a state of the art facility.  The city was happy to play a role in keeping the new high school within the city limits.

During the Council Visioning sessions, it was made clear that moving forward, we intended to end the practice of using Tax Anticipation Notes, otherwise known as TAN’s, for the purpose of short term borrowing.  This practice was completely eliminated in 2012 and the financial position of the city, largely under the guidance of City Administrator Rhodes and Comptroller Urban, was much improved.

A budget development model was created to better project city revenues and expenditures and the city’s debt was restructured with most still set to be paid off within 10 years.  The greatest concern being the general fund deficit, a plan was established to eliminate that deficit and improve the city’s finances.  This year, that deficit was cut from $1.6 million to $800,000.  Next year, that fund should be balanced.  And in 2012, the current budget was projected to have a surplus in excess of $2 million that would create the financial liquidity to get the city back on track.

The city maintained its “A” bond rating throughout the year.

Cumberland residents also received a benefit in taxes through an increase in the tax differential.  County tax bills were impacted and residents saved as a result of services in the City of Cumberland, paid through city taxes, that are duplicate with County services.

Infrastructure continued to be a focus for the city.  325 feet of sewer lines were replaced.  The extensive project on Cedar Street to prevent CSOs was completed, largely with state funding, and the CSO storage facility planned for the wastewater treatment plant moved into the final design stage.  Thousands of feet of water lines were replaced, many in concert with street repaving projects, and others a response to an aging water system.

Building on the repaving of other streets in Cumberland in 2011, including Maryland Avenue, Virginia Avenue, Williams Street, Park Street, and Henderson Avenue, the city undertook the repaving of Oldtown Road, a much anticipated and much needed project.  Final efforts including line painting and handicapped accessible ramps will be completed in the Spring, but the project was largely finished this year.  A new water line installation along South Centre Street continues to create some traffic pattern changes even today, but will result in new gas lines, new water lines, a repaving of the street in the Spring of 2013, and new ADA improvements.

In cooperation with the property owner behind Allegany College, major improvements and street widening of Old Willowbrook Road were also completed.

The significant street improvements, including widening of the road, new sidewalks, new curbs, and repavement of Baltimore Avenue have moved to the bid process with anticipated start in the Spring of 2013.  The project was expanded due to available state grant funding and will constitute the major city project next year.

135 tons of blacktop were used for pot hole repair and the city worked closely with Columbia Gas on gas line replacements so that digging new streets did not occur.  Repaving was scheduled to take place in consideration of new gas lines and the city developed a strong relationship with Columbia Gas as a result of these improved communications.

Cumberland parks also saw improvements with the tennis courts resurfaced at the Mason Sports Complex, using Program Open Space funding.  Northcraft and Nonnemann fields saw improvements through private grant funding, and the Constitution Park Pool celebrated its 73rd season of operation.

2012 marked the Evitt’s Creek Water Company’s 99th year in operation.  Throughout the year, Council, staff, and the Evitt’s Creek Steering Committee worked to preserve the watershed for recreational purposes and as our water source in the city. 

A forest legacy conservation easement will be considered for much of the property, as the city continued to work to protect the watershed.  And the State of Pennsylvania ranked the watershed #1 in the state for water quality.

Efforts to protect the tree canopy in Cumberland continued, including with the receipt of state grant funds.  Dozens of new trees were planted and the city received the Golden Leaf Award for excellence in tree canopy management within an urban setting.

The public safety services of the City of Cumberland received high demand this year, responding to 3,964 emergency medical incidents and 1,122 alarms for fires.  Saving lives through an ongoing educational effort and the installation of smoke detectors, fire department personnel installed more than 100 smoke detectors, many of which were installed during the Neighborhoods Matter door-to-door initiative.  The fire department continued into the second year of the SAFER grant, employing eight firefighter and EMS positions.  Grant funds also assisted in providing needed maintenance and upgrades to the South Cumberland Fire Station, including to plumbing, heating, air conditioning, window and door replacements.

The firefighters union also developed a non-profit organization for the purpose of fundraising to buy and redistribute smoke detectors to homes in need.  AES Warrior Run donated $10,000 for this purpose.

The Cumberland Police Department continued to work toward accreditation.  The department handled several high-profile cases and coordinated closely with other local jurisdictions, particularly through the C3I unit, to bring those cases to close very quickly.

The department successfully applied for a Safe Streets Maryland grant and was awarded $180,000 for the purpose of removing the worst criminals from our community and putting them behind bars.  Under the Chief’s leadership, the CPD has partnered with local, state, and federal police units, as well as social services to make this a cooperative effort, including the State’s Attorney, as well.

Cumberland technology moved forward during the year with an effort to bring greater information to Cumberland citizens with the increased use of Nixle, an internet based effort to immediately deliver to citizens who sign up for email or mobile phone notifications of significant or emergency events taking place in the city.  As identified as a priority of the Council, public Mayor and City Council meetings such as this one have also been recorded and placed online for public viewing on the city’s website.

Technology was also upgraded for the multi-police-agency Incident Reporting System, as well as to increase the use of wireless meter readings at residential units.

The Neighborhoods Matter program moved into its second year, targeting eight Cumberland neighborhoods in a door-to-door effort to tackle blight, neighborhood concerns, health concerns, and public safety through the installation of smoke detectors.  Administrator Rhodes, myself, city code enforcement staff, fire department staff and Cumberland police, visited each of the neighborhoods for several hours to consider many neighborhood concerns and speak directly to every resident about any code violations that may exist, as well as to offer smoke detectors for installation in homes.  The program was a great success, reviewing more than 1,500 properties, and will continue in 2013.  After each neighborhood intervention, dumpsters were placed in the neighborhood to encourage community cleanup efforts.  They were very successful in doing so!

The city also worked directly with neighborhood groups to clean up neighborhoods.  Volunteer efforts such as Let’s Beautify Cumberland and the Day of Caring and Sharing made great strides, as did city efforts to procure funding for neighborhood dumpsters for clean-up efforts.  Nearly two dozen of the largest dumpsters available, were hauled out of Cumberland neighborhoods, funded through grant dollars awarded to the city, for the purposes of eliminating blight in yards, on porches, and in homes.  Neighborhood groups worked directly with the city to make use of the dumpsters, a program aimed at resolving concerns over the loss of the very expensive large bulk trash pickup.

Several building or major renovation projects were completed in 2012.  More than a dozen properties were razed as a result of blight, either by the city working with property owners, or after the city took ownership.  Another twelve are currently being bid out for demolition, with one or two more set to be razed any day.  The city’s commitment to removing blight continues, with the current budget setting aside $100,000 for this purpose.

 

With an overarching goal of population growth in the City of Cumberland, efforts will continue in 2013 to meet infrastructure challenges and meet pressing needs.  Key to those efforts are the committees and commissions of the city, for which Council members will comment further.