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June 23, 2022

County economic development plan discussed in Grantsville

Credit: Garrett County Republican, Brenda Ruggiero

Kim Durst, manager of business development with Garrett County Government, gave a presentation at Tuesday’s Grantsville Town Council meeting and reported that the organization is working on a new economic strategic development plan for the county.

Meredith Mears from M3 Synergies attended virtually and gave an overview of what her company was going to do.

She explained that M3 Synergies is a consulting firm specializing in economic development, commercial real estate development, infrastructure and site development and all things that work together to make communities grow.

“We are looking at creating a plan for the county that will address the next five years with regard to economic development,” Mears said. “It’s more like a road map of the next five years of where the community says it wants to go and how to get there.”

She noted that she spent time with several towns so far through virtual meetings and collected a lot of different information and got some insight into some of the challenges.

“In the fall, we want to be boots on the ground and talk with more community leaders, the hospitality industry and all the industries that make Garrett County a wonderful place to live and work.”

She reported that hopes are to get the plan together by the end of the year.

Mears asked the group about economic challenges for the town.

Mayor Mark Diehl spoke about the recent market rate rental study and how there are more jobs in Grantsville than there are homes for people to live in.

“So that’s a major issue for us,” he said. “We are one of only two towns in Garrett County that grew over the last census. We have growth, but we still have way more jobs than we have people living here. They’re coming in from other states and counties, working well with our employers, but they’re not staying here.”

Diehl stated that it was important to be working on infrastructure and maintaining what the town already has.

Councilwoman Emily Newman-Edwards agreed with the mayor, stating that there was 24 percent growth in Grantsville.

“So there are a lot of people that want to live in this community,” she said, noting that it was a priority to figure out a way to get people into the town because they want to live there.

She also stated that business growth was important.

Councilman Jody Theriot mentioned a need for public transportation in and out of Grantsville.

“We’re on an interstate and we really don’t have any reliable or affordable transportation,” he said.

Another mention was a need for retirement living, such as an over-55 development.

“Grantsville is growing and growing well, but we need places for people to stay,” Councilwoman Pam Braskey said.

Councilman Mike Downton also noted that people have spoken about the need for a rec center for Grantsville.

In other business:

  • Mike McCloskey of JTF1 was a guest at the meeting. He stated that a recent incident involving juveniles trashing the restroom in the park sparked an idea.
  • “Kids are always bored and looking for something to do,” he said. “We put our heads together and we were like what happens if we kind of utilize the park for up to three days a week for a four-hour period.”
  • He stated that there is a cost, but he found friends and businesses who were willing to cover the first two weeks.
  • “Parents could stay and play or drop and go,” McCloskey said. “We’ll keep them busy with a bunch of JTF activities, utilize the rest of the park for kickball and possibly have lunch donated. We’ll keep them active and sit down and have lunch with them, almost like a mentoring program. We would love the opportunity to help the town out and give the kids something to do.”
  • The consensus was that the council is in favor of this activity, which can begin next week. Details will be given on the town Facebook page.
  • Diehl and Administrator Robin Jones attended the MML Convention in Ocean City and gave a report of contacts made and information gathered there.
  • “The good thing is we got a lot more contacts and found out about some new products,” Diehl said.
  • A single bid was received and opened for street paving throughout the town. It was from Keystone and was awarded for $98,667.50.
  • The budget ordinance was adopted, which Diehl reported was a total of $1.674 million.
  • Jones reported that she received word that the Rt. 40 sidewalk project at the Casselman Bridge has been placed in Senator Chris Van Hollen’s earmarked funds request, with assistance from Congressman David Trone. It is a total of $4 million in federal funds. If the budget passes in October 2022, it will cover 80 percent of the project, with a 20 percent match still needed for a total of $800,000.
  • Pam Trautwein was appointed to the Planning Board. The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday July 5.

The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday July 5.