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Thursday, June 6, 2013

New Housing at Constitution Park ??? ~ Cumberland, Maryland

The latest rumor in the political civilian circle is that of new construction for homes just behind the hospital, W.M.H.S., which will be on land formerly part of Constitution Park.

Alongside that rumor, is the rumor we may lose our public pool located there close to this project.

Perhaps I am jumping the gun, however, this would certainly fall in line with great financial planning from our new hospital, and further fit the bill of taking from the community even more of our valuable assets, always seemingly dwindling.

What has happened is many things with the former Sacred Heart site of the previous hospital and the construction of the new hospital alongside a land swap deal.

Our local area was strapped with demolition of two buildings now, both former hospitals, and the swap was for the land behind the new hospital, which was previously a part of Constitution Park, the largest contiguous park in all of Cumberland, Maryland.

We have already lost our collective "asses" on this deal several times over, and look to stand a great shortfall towards our community if we do indeed lose the pool.

I have said before we are getting swashbuckled locally, and I will therefore say it again, and expect that this is what is happening.

These folks do not invest where nothing pays!

These folks do have vision, and they share that vision with those in the know, and all may make a profit from it if they do their due diligence.

The questions to me are many but boil down to this, repeatedly, is all of this moral, ethical, legal, and/or fair?

That is where the reader must do their due diligence and think with an open mind.

If this is what progress for this area looks like, we may not like it as citizens, but it may ultimately be in our best interests.

It is really ion our own best interests if it employs local labor, and further add to the bottom line economically, both short and long term.

If we did, let's say, lose the pool, that is one less liability and expense to encumber, and I may be all for that, but not after going through more proper legal channels, if so needed.

What perhaps irks me the most is when we take in a school project and a huge price tag to make that dream come to fruition when we could have just purchased that land outright, and what we instead did was trade away the park (a portion of it technically) for this land.

I think that is criminal, and I also think it shows quite a bit of thought and planning before any real paperwork was ever recorded.

It was just so convenient!

I hope this rumor is wrong about the pool, because look at the city's very own website.

"Constitution Park, including the pool, opened to the public on June 25, 1939. Of the total 100 acres on which the park was built, a total of sixty-three acres was donated to the City of Cumberland by Carl Richards and Carl F. Grabenstein in exchange for sewer and water service on a small plot near the park entrance. The park pool was built by WPA (Works Progress Administration) labor, a program that was started by the Roosevelt administration to employ Americans during the Depression. Constitution Park obtained its name through a contest between school children, with the winning name submitted by a seventh grade student, Hume Annan. 

Over 7,000 people attended the grand opening celebration, including over 1,500 “bathers.” Over half of the swimmers were under the age of 16. On that day, adults paid 25 cents, children between the ages of 8 and 16 paid 10 cents, and children under the age of 8 were admitted free of charge.

Of additional interest are the salaries earned by the park staff in 1939. The superintendent earned $100 per month, three life guards were paid $20 per week, four attendants earned $15 per week, 2 lavatory attendants were paid $13 per week, and three watchmen were paid $80 per month.

Since that opening day, Constitution Park has continued under the supervision and maintenance of the City of Cumberland’s Parks and Recreation Department. In 2000, attendance numbered 8,647 students and 2,683 adults . In 2001, the pool underwent a major rehabilitation, funded through Community Development Block Grant funds and a city bond issue. These improvements will ensure that the pool will be available for the same enjoyment for generations to come."

Of the original 100 acres we now have traded away roughly 40% of that acreage which was donated, and being as how 63 of those acres were donated in exchange for water and sewage service, as stated in the article, I wonder if that was the only stipulations.

What I see transpiring looks to be more of a visionary master plan, and puppet local politicians that play into corporate hands and cannot see this larger picture.

I hope I am wrong, and I hope the rumor mill that states these things is wrong too, however again, I have watched this happening in reality over and over, and it just seems a shame that we the citizens lose our assets locally due to not having a vision that matches this path, or perhaps we do have a shared vision, but that vision is just not truly shared verbally and in the media at this point.

As a citizen, it is up to us as individuals to stay informed and be the watchful eyes where we live.

We really cannot expect the local paper or radio stations to share all of this information, and those that are truly in the know with certain projects either will not or legally cannot share this either.

Planning, or reshaping, or revitalizing, or what ever you would like to call it, a community for the long term is important because we want to keep valued assets, build a larger tax base, upgrade and maintain infrastructure, and know what all of that entails.

A prime example of this failure currently is the local issue with water mains breaking (old infrastructure) and not planning well on making long term upgrades to that infrastructure thus repairing it properly as well as saving monies now through a proactive course of action as opposed to simply re-actively awaiting for the next inevitable calamity that has proven will happen time and time again recently, in the exact same areas.

I will add more links when they are active again, but I know for a fact in this general 10 square block area we have had at least 4 major breaks all at a very hefty price tag thus far.

If we are truly the 9th poorest city in the nation, then there must be some federal money to help with these issues, or at least state funds, because what we have gotten is enough to only place a band-aid on a gushing artery of bleeding liabilities for our future.

Recently, with a $ 1.7 Million sewage deficit, we have had our monthly sewage increased by $ 7 per month, a huge increase, which I feel should be amended to be a percentage equal to the amount of sewage made by usage, not a same flat fee for all.

Here is some  great statistical information to consider as well, right from our Mayor's site, thanks for sharing these statistics as well Mayor Grimm.

City Water

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July 6, 2011 
The break of a 24" water main at approximately 5:00 a.m., this morning, has caused significant damage, the cessation of water service until repairs can be done, and rerouting of traffic on a portion of Frederick Street for the morning, as well as Bedford Street onto the McMullen Bridge, for several days to come.
The water main services the Bedford Street, Frederick Street, Decatur Street, and Independence Street neighborhoods and as a result of the gushing waters, damage has been sustained at the playground of the new Banneker Gardens facility, as well as to other portions of the grounds.  Damage has also been reported at the Adams Family Funeral Home, where the Cumberland Fire Department has assisted in pumping significant flooding from the basement of the business.
Photos including the destroyed stairs leading into the playground area, the water gushing over the jersey wall onto Frederick Street, and the water pouring past and around the Adams Family Funeral Home.
City crews will be working around the clock to open roadways and restore water service, as well as to assist all those impacted by flooding or debris as a result of the water main break. 
May 24, 2011 
As budget presentations are being presented and considerations are being paid for challenging financial needs, the city is not considering tax rate increases, nor water rate increases or trash rate increases.  However, due to the cost increase, of sewage treatment, as mandated by the State of Maryland, a proposed sewage rate increase will be considered.  Despite no other proposed rate increases, it is important to consider the following when taking into account the infrastructure and associated costs of infrastructure of the City of Cumberland.
Did you know that the City of Cumberland has...
133 miles of streets to maintain;
195 acres of park and recreational land;
145 vehicles in the city fleet;
18,000 residents;
7.9 millions of gallons of water consumed daily;
157 miles of water distribution pipes;
more than 1,000 fire hydrants;
12 million gallons of sewage treated daily;
126 miles of sewage lines;
and 2.6 tons of sludge produced daily...
For a "small" city, don't ever underestimate the extreme cost and work involved in maintaining the infrastructure.

Concerning sewage, logic would dictate a percentage increase, so that the folks making the most sewage pay the most towards the exhorbient price to treat that sewage as well, and perhaps we could all be even more conservative as well.

12 million gallons of sewage treated daily; quoting the "stats" above, certainly is not mostly generated by 18,000 folks homes, so I think the businesses should pay the bulk of that, as I have stated.

Once again I do not see cross department coordination on any level, city, local, county, state, or federal with any of this larger picture.

Back to the possibility of new housing construction, recent history shows  many issues, of which the city has at a time or two had to straighten out at a further expense to the citizens, for example the old park on James Day drive behind my home being sold to private parties, and then the debacle that followed.

I will say however now, the new houses are beautiful and finally getting finished after many years, but the park will remain forever gone for my use as well as my neighbors, as this sits directly behind my own home.

I hope in the long run that example above has benefited the area with a better tax base and less expenditures, but that remains to be calculated and shared, and I may just do a study on that myself, as it should all be public record.

I would also like to see how much we sold the old parks and recreation building for and who purchased it as well, as this just fits in line with the scrutiny we need on a local level, and these things should be clearly reported, not just a few lines in the classified as required by law, but as articles to consider as citizens, because we expect a local media outlet to share these most minute details with us, the true owners of the properties.

So all of that being said, other then the promise of a new school (maybe at this point in time as we did all of this with no guarantee ahead of time) and a massive price tag that we will all collective owe, what have we the citizens received upon these dealings, and who has profited, and has it all been above board and legal?

Ultimately, in order to run a city you need to know how to run a business, and I think the folks in charge of finances at W.M.H.S., have a better idea and team of how to do that then our local politicians, well, if money was the only bottom line!

If I were a local politician, I would never personally endorse the transfer of any large tracts of public land, under any circumstances.

I would certainly endorse the disposal of public land, like the tunnel, if it was a safety issue and less liability if transferred, but when it comes to park land, I do not see that as a logical trade, but only as a manipulation that is against the betterment of the city overall and therefore the greater good for the majority.

I would also always take every effort and option into consideration while helping to re-vitalize this area, and never sell the masses short for a dollar, because I would rather pass on broke and scrupulous then to make a buck and hurt others, but that is just me, the consummate observer.

I like to think that I share what I hear, report what I know, observe with a great context, and never have only myself in my sites.

Growth needs to happen here and quick, and if we settle for what we have for the last few decades, as we too often do, we will just get more of the same, and our assets and community will further disintegrate, instead of being the wholesome place we can build with vision and tact.

W.M.H.S. has proven, and will continue to prove, to be a huge asset to our area, I just hope that we will see more giving back to those that need that help outside of the hospital atmosphere.

Barry Ronin, for one, the C.E.O., has quite an excellent blog, and if I ran a business, he would have my vote of confidence in business and ethical matters.

I was very happy to see when he reported the real facts at his blog about the real statistics with the perplexing issues of "legal marijuana", and "bath salts", and I know this man studies his issues, stays abreast of the big picture, and strives for excellence, and more are following him and other leaders here to our area.

I only pray that there is a realistic fusion of the minds, vision, and caring, for this area that will catapult us into the future as so many see here, but rarely see come to fruition quickly enough.

But great changes are taking place and happening daily, and there is no better place to find friends, culture, unity, appreciation and nature, then in our beloved historical city of Cumberland.

Again, I hope the rumor mill is wrong, so report on this and let us, the citizens know, please.

I would hate to share with all of my friends from Northern Virginia who visit here, all about this and that, if this and that are about dis-appear.

The best form of advertising is always, and has always been, word of mouth, so let's hope we all have some great things to share, because the national spotlight on our city has been anything but favorable recently.

If we cannot afford to knock down the old hospitals, perhaps we can place slot machines inside and generate some revenue!