Elected Officials Deliver State of the County at Chamber Breakfast
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 31, 2018
CHESAPEAKE CITY -- In a room filled with State and local representatives, County officials, public school and library administrators, business leaders, fellow citizens and special guests, the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce held their State of the County Breakfast on Monday at Schaefer's Canal House in Chesapeake City.
Chamber Board Chair Jack Schammel and Government Relations Committee Chair Dr. Carl Roberts welcomed and emceed the fourth annual event for a host of more than 150 people from the community.
“The Cecil County Chamber is pleased to bring this event to our members and the larger community again this year. The 'Annual State of the County' is our community’s annual physical. It allows us to check our pulse and come up with a diagnosis of how we’re doing overall. Economists sometimes judge the health of a community solely by its economic well-being; the Cecil County Chamber focuses on our overall quality of life," explained Bonnie Grady, Chamber President and CEO.
County Executive Alan McCarthy presented an impactful presentation, painting the picture of the County's growth since the move to charter government in late 2012. McCarthy noted impressive growth in economic development -- siting nearly half a billion dollars in total capital investments in the last 12-18 months, many of which were made possible because of improved and expanded infrastructure.
Based on statistics provided in his presentation, McCarthy pointed out that during FY12 through FY17, the County increased the number of new jobs by 2,300. "Going forward, during FY18 through FY19, we will bring in another 2,000 or more new jobs," explained McCarthy. "Over an 18 month time period, we will create more jobs in Cecil County than we have over the last five years combined."
Perhaps the most impressive milestone in the last year can be attributed to the County's ability to maintain fiscal stability. "The fiscal year 2018 budget was the first budget in many years that did not raid the County savings account to balance the budget," stated McCarthy.
The importance of continued support of education for Cecil County Public Schools, Cecil County Library and Cecil College was also high on McCarthy's list of strategic plan objectives. The County has substantially aided in supporting operating budgets for all three entities, and will continue to do so going forward. Capital improvement projects, such as the replacement of Gilpin Manor Elementary School, and substantial roof and boiler replacements were also mentioned.
McCarthy then concentrated on his goal to provide “safe, active and healthy communities” beginning with his initiative to combat the debilitating and fatal heroin outbreak with the implementation of the Opioid Information Task Force, headed by Chief Richard Brooks. The task force derived in direct response to Governor Hogan's declaration of a State of Emergency for Maryland due to the opioid epidemic.
“In spite of our best efforts, the death toll from heroin overdoses has doubled and we have responded,” he stressed, going on to acknowledge a lawsuit, initiated by McCarthy, in which the County will seek damages against 25 opioid manufacturers and distributors to help combat this dreadful issue. "These dangerous drugs and their additives are putting our police and public safety personnel at risk and straining the County's financial resources."
Other community-based accomplishments included the signing of a joint use of facilities MOU with Cecil County Public Schools, concurrent with the completed installation of the turf field at Perryville High School, the addition of more than 1,087 acres through Maryland's Program Open Space, the pending acquisition of the former Bittersweet Golf Course and the continued success and value of Calvert Regional Park.
McCarthy concluded that the County has “a bright, opportunity filled future” and it will take collaborative efforts from the municipalities, businesses, school system and community to continue to make progress.
Council President Joyce Bowlsbey gave an in-depth talk on the substance abuse issues in the County. In her speech, she noted many of the local organizations and resources that are available as the community fights this debilitating problem. She applauded the efforts of those involved in Drug Take Back Day and noted that 551 pounds of drugs were collected at the most recent event held in October.
Bowlsbey stressed the importance of behavioral health and early education as a preventative tool also stating that "treatment works and recovery is achievable." Bowlsbey, who will retire when her term is complete later this year, received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Council Vice President Dan Schneckenburger took the stand to discuss progress in many areas that impact the County, beginning with the importance of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition -- comprised of nine counties including Cecil -- which will advocate for the clean-up of the Conowingo Dam and will require Exelon to be responsible.
Schneckenburger then discussed the diversification of growth in the area of agriculture, the County's largest industry, specifically siting the expansion of Warrick Mushroom and Sun Med Growers and the Council’s zoning amendment to put reasonable regulations on the Poultry CAFOs, which has prompted much concern from citizens over environmental factors. He also pointed out the potential development of the former Bainbridge Naval Base with its vast infrastructure.
Schneckenburger talked about the possibilities of the Fair Hill Five Star event in 2020, interest in the re-development of the Donaldson Brown Center, and continued progress of tourism – all of which could result in economic growth for the County. He rounded out his speech on the County's improved relationship with Aberdeen Proving Ground and increased involvement with community briefings that affect more than 6,000 County residents who work on base.
"On February 20th, County Council will have the first public briefing from APG’s top commander, General Randy Taylor, for the first time in our history," announced Schneckenburger.
James Massey, Council Manager, presented on behalf of George Patchell who could not be there due to a work commitment outside of the County. Massey relayed Patchell's optimistic views on the additions of Amazon, Lidl and other businesses moving into the County and the increased revenues they will provide.
Patchell will continue to work to construct a new and improved railroad bridge across the Susquehanna River and is confident that, although the MARC maintenance facility has reached an impasse, Cecil Transit will provide the necessary bus transportation between the Perryville MARC station and the Newark SEPTA station, and that it will encourage the development of ridership.
Council member Jackie Gregory complemented the tremendous increase in economic development in the County over the last year and expressed the importance of continuing to bring jobs to the area. “Businesses bring jobs to the County which increase our tax base,” explained Gregory.
Gregory praised the reorganization of the new Land Use and Development Services Department for its efficiency in providing good services to the public and reducing costs and also appreciated the efforts the County is making to improve high speed broadband or offer alternative services in rural areas to isolated businesses and residents.
Councilman Bob Meffley applauded Cecil County Public School’s graduation rate of 90%, which is higher than the state or national average. He commented on his support for the expansion of pre-school programs and the need to work to combat educational barriers. Meffley praised Cecil College, Cecil County Public Library and Cecil County Public Schools for their cooperation in promoting education in the County.
Lastly, Meffley remarked that the Public Library provides many services for young children through adults offering opportunities for lifelong learning. He also commented that the participation of the community and their input on the new library resulted in a state grant of $1 million for construction.
"It was gratifying to hear our County Executive and Council members tout how well our education, healthcare, library, recreation and other non-financial aspects of Cecil County our doing, beyond the tremendous successes of our economic development efforts, our fiscal stability and improvements to our infrastructure. These prosperity indicators, and others, contribute to our individual and collective sense of well-being, and remind us that Cecil County truly is a great place to live, work, and play," commented Grady.
McCarthy’s State of the County presentation
**Photo courtesy Cecil County Chamber of Commerce
Public Information Officer