(March 8, 2019) As per the annual budget routine, representatives of Worcester County communities appeared before the county commissioners Tuesday to request the county’s financial support in the year ahead.
Officials from Berlin, Ocean Pines, Pocomoke, and Snow Hill made their pitches in person, while Ocean City’s chief budget negotiator with the county, Mayor Rick Meehan, was in Annapolis testifying against the minimum wage bill and could not attend.
Public safety, infrastructure and tourism were funding categories all towns had in common.
Pocomoke City Manager Bobby Cowger, along with City Council members Esther Troast and George Tasker, ask for a slight increase in county funding, from $1,504,064 in the current budget, to $1,534,626 in the year ahead.
“We need twice what we’ve asked but what we’re asking would be a very, very beneficial to our success,” Councilwoman Troast said.
City officials are seeking $465,000 for public safety and economic development, $55,000 for the Pocomoke City Fire Department, as well as ambulance funding, $44,000 for the Discovery Center and $15,000 for the Marva Theater.
Cowger also mentioned several costly infrastructure issues need help, including lift stations for sewage and the erosion of the Riverside Boardwalk, both of which are decades old.
Snow Hill Mayor Stephen Matthews and Councilwoman Latoya Purnell asked for a slightly larger increase, from a little more than $1.6 million this year to $1.8 million in 2020.
Of that total, $500,000 would be used to service infrastructure repairs and to reducing vacant and blighted housing.
In addition, $175,000 in lieu of taxes was requested, $100,000 in a one- time grant to assist with paving projects, and a $75,000 one time-grant assist with the butterfly house in Sturgis Park.
Revitalization was said to be another priority for Snow Hill, but Matthews said it hasn’t been easy.
“We’re a small municipality, and unfortunately the businesses are struggling,” he said.
Commissioner Ted Elder expressed his concerns on the matter and referenced not being able to get to his favorite coffee shop because the sidewalk was coned off.
The business Edler was referring to was Toy Town, which was recently shut down by the town. Matthews said he couldn’t say much about that, except, “basically they don’t have an occupancy permit, and they have code violations.”
While some towns feel they are struggling, Berlin has prospered.
“We appreciate the financial support we have received from Worcester County and feel that our ongoing investments in infrastructure, public safety and public facilities has been money well spent,” Mayor Gee Williams said in seeking a small bump in funding.
There was $2,068,335 approved for fiscal year 2019 budget, and $2,086,602 proposed for the fiscal year 2020 budget, according to the budget proposal. Berlin is requesting $500,000 for its budget.
Ocean Pines, requested $525,000 in public safety funding, $100,000 for roads and bridges, $25,000 for tourism, and $40,000 for recreation and parks, according to the proposal.
The Ocean Pines fiscal year 2019 budget was $1,266,330, and association officials are requesting $1,569,185 for fiscal year 2020, according to the proposal.