State of the County 2021
“Welcome to the 2021 State of the County address for Washington County, Maryland. I am excited to be back with Washington County Government as the new County Administrator. Before we share about Washington County’s progress over the past year, I would like to acknowledge this past year’s successes would not have been possible without the dedication of our County employees and the efforts of Interim County Administrator, and our County Attorney, Kirk Downey.
COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted our lives, but our goal remains the same: to establish Washington County as a premier place to live, work, and play. Here you will learn how Washington County has responded, is rebuilding, and recovering to move forward to a successful 2021.”
– John M. Martirano, Esq., County Administrator
On March 5, 2020, Governor Hogan declared a State of Emergency in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Washington County followed suit by declaring a State of Emergency on March 16th.
Shortly after, on March 30th, the Governor initiated a Stay at Home order as an effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19 across Maryland.
On April 18th, a face covering mandate was issued requiring citizens to wear a mask in all retail locations and on public transportation. Throughout this entire process, an Emergency Operations Center was established to oversee operations related to COVID-19 in Washington County. Staff from various organizations came together to monitor and project the impact of COVID-19 in our community.
“To say 2020 was a challenging year would be an understatement, but I am incredibly proud of the hard work and perseverance displayed by our County staff. The past year started out like any other – planned projects, ribbon cuttings, grand openings, growth and expansion, and increasing the local tax base. What we didn’t know is that a few months in to 2020, we would come face to face with a global pandemic. Unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime, the magnitude of unforeseen challenges and new responsibilities certainly restructured the County’s focus for the latter half of 2020.
Thank you to all staff, and I would be remiss if I did not give a special thanks to healthcare workers, educators, and all essential personnel who have worked many extra hours over the course of this pandemic. It has been an honor to serve as Interim County Administrator and I look forward to working with John and the Commissioners for the betterment of Washington County.“
– Kirk C. Downey, County Attorney
The immediacy of the Stay at Home order caused a significant shift in the day-to-day operations for Washington County Government. While essential services remained open and operating, all County buildings were closed to the public.
Several County divisions and departments transitioned to telework, as the Division of Information Technology got staff set-up to work remotely. This included the implementation of Microsoft Teams and learning various meeting streaming platforms, including Zoom and GoToMeetings, and holding virtual trainings for staff to learn new technology.
The Division of Construction implemented a virtual inspection process, the Division of Plan Review and Permitting established an email account for accepting permit submissions, division heads created new staffing plans.
The Division of Environmental Management helped with moving patient beds from HCC to Meritus and distributed face masks to all essential staff, and Human Resources created COVID-19 health and safety measures for County employees.
While much of the world was placed on hold, we are proud to say that Washington County remained operating and provided essential services to our citizens.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, led by Sheriff Doug Mullendore, has managed and operated the distribution of PPE to long-term health care facilities and first responders.
Washington County Sheriff’s Office
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our office has been managing and operating the distribution of PPE to long-term health care facilities and first responders. As part of the Emergency Operations Center, I was assigned as the Logistics Officer. This means the Sheriff’s Office is processing all PPE orders and operating the Warehouse to store all of the supplies. In addition to monitoring PPE supplies, the Detention Center has managed extreme efforts to keep the inmate population safe from COVID-19, which has not been an easy task. We look forward to continuing distribution efforts as long as necessary as we help to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community. “
– Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore
As the County responded to the pandemic, staff vigorously continued on with their roles and responsibilities to rebuild from a temporary pause on life.
n May 2020, the Board of County Commissioners passed a general fund budget of $235,896,580 for FY2021 and a Capital Improvement Plan of $54,874,000.
Not surprisingly, fiscal year 2020 took on a set of unusual circumstances. This includes larger income tax distributions, delays to health care procedures, and an unexpected rise in unemployment due to the pandemic.
Moving into 2021, the County is maintaining flexibility within the Budget, as there is a fluidity to the current state of the economy with various influencing factors. As it currently stands, education and public safety remain the top two largest areas where County funding is spent.
“Without a doubt, 2020 has been one of the most challenging years during my time as a County Commissioner. We could not have imagined this year would include facing a global pandemic. I am proud to say Washington County Government staff has gone above and beyond to meet the needs of our citizens during this time. A special thank you to healthcare workers and first responders who have been there when we needed them most to help keep us safe and healthy during this past year.
Public safety in Washington County received great encouragement this year, with construction at the Public Safety Training Center moving along nicely and the approval of several grants that will help fund and support volunteer fire and EMS companies. With public safety and education as our leading budget items, it is important we highlight the past year’s accomplishments and future projects we are working on as we lead Washington County into the coming years.
In addition, all County employees have worked tirelessly through this pandemic to provide the necessary services to our citizens and we recognize their sacrifices and we thank them.”
– Jeff Cline, Board of County Commissioners, President
Washington County received two grants that will significantly aid in the hiring of over 30 firefighters and serve as tremendous aid to the Division of Emergency Services. The SAFER Grant, awarded by FEMA, totals over $8 million and will help fund up to 33 firefighters over the next 3 years. This will help in reducing response times and enhancing firefighter and public safety throughout the County.
The Firefighter Assistance Grant was submitted through the Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway and is a regional grant from FEMA. This grant of $1.6 million will be used by various volunteer fire and EMS departments and the Division of Emergency Services to purchase self-contained breathing apparatus for firefighters.
Emergency Services also made two large technology advances: implementation of Text to 9-1-1 and the upgrade to the VESTA telephone systems for NextGen 9-1-1 that will help provide faster and more precise location for 9-1-1 calls from a mobile phone.
The building of the Public Safety Training Center made significant progress in 2020. Phase 1 of site and utility work was completed and Phase 2 of the construction of the building began in November 2020, with an anticipated completion in the Spring of 2022. This center will provide more opportunities for police, fire, and emergency services personnel to train together.
Washington County Public Schools held two virtual ribbon cuttings this fall. Construction was completed at both the new Sharpsburg Elementary School and the new Vincent Rauth Groh Academic Center at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.
“Infrastructure is the foundation upon which the County is built. While the world around us may have paused for several weeks during the pandemic, infrastructure was still being constructed throughout our county.
The Divisions of Engineering and Construction, along with the Highway Department, have completed several large projects that will add to the overall well-being of Washington County.“
– Wayne K. Keefer, Commissioner
The Division of Engineering also completed several notable projects in 2020:
- Poffenberger Road Bridges were reopened in the spring and involved the rehabilitation of an existing single-span stone arch bridge and an existing three-span stone arch bridge.
- Marsh Pike Sidewalk Extension, which was a Safe Routes to School project, involved extending the sidewalk from Paramount Elementary to Donnybrook Drive and improving drainage along the route.
- Coordinated with Highways Department for over 50 miles of road preparation and maintenance for asphalt and chip sealed roads
- Colonel Henry K Douglas Drive Extended was completed. This road provides a second access to the Cross Creek subdivision and allows for future economic development opportunities. Aldi and Dunkin Donuts have opened locations directly off of this road.
Professional Boulevard Bridge continues to progress, as steel girders were set in the fall and the project continues toward its anticipated completion in the summer of 2021. Road work on Professional Court will begin this year with anticipated completion of the road from Eastern Boulevard to Yale Drive in 2022.
“It is encouraging to continue seeing development happening across Washington County. The County has welcomed several large developers over the past year. With our location and incentives, Washington County continues to attract businesses – both large and small—as a place to call home. We are looking forward to continued growth in 2021 as the economy continues to rebuild.“
– Cort F. Meinelschmidt, Commissioner
As integral infrastructure is added in our communities across the County, economic development has also been strong. Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford, Secretary Kelly Schulz and several other dignitaries attended a groundbreaking in the fall for the new Hagerstown Logistics Center. Northpoint Development made a $150 million dollar investment into Washington County and 1,500 jobs will be housed at the Hagerstown Logistics Center. This project exemplifies the strength of working together, as it was a coordinated effort between the City of Hagerstown, Washington County Government, NorthPoint Development, and the State of Maryland. It was announced that at Northpoint’s Hagerstown Logistics Center location and Trammel Crow’s I-81 Industrial Center, Amazon will be a tenant. This is a huge win for Washington County and will provide hundreds of jobs to the local area.
While the County continues with its economic growth and development, the heartbeat of our communities lie within the local small businesses. We recognize businesses have been hit hard with the impact from COVID-19. The Department of Business Development worked closely with Budget and Finance to facilitate two grants designed to help local businesses: the Rise Up Business Stabilization Grant that was released during the summer months, and the Restaurant Relief Grant that was released in November. 594 businesses were awarded over $5.6 million in grants for the Business Stabilization Grant and over 100 restaurants were awarded over $1.5 million in grants for the Restaurants Relief Grant. Both grants provided relief to small businesses who were significantly impacted by the pandemic.
The Office of Grant Management oversaw the Together We Serve Grant, which was open to local human-service providing non-profits that provided crucial services to County residents during the pandemic. 28 grants were awarded totaling over $400,000. In addition, $600,000 was reallocated to the Community Action Council for Emergency Assistance to assist individuals impacted by COVID-19 with expenses such as rent, mortgage, and utility bills.
At the beginning of 2020, Parks and Recreation unveiled a new logo that shows the immersion of parks and recreation programs working together to service the recreational needs of residents across Washington County. Parks and Rec have several highlights during this year, which include:
- New playground equipment at Regional Park and two pavilions received a new roof and paint.
- New pickleball courts at Marty Snook Park
- Opened Marty Snook Pool with limited capacity to meet COVID-19 regulations and worked with the GIS Department to create a live pool-tracker where citizens could check pool capacity before leaving their home.
- Restructured recreation programs to meet COVID regulations
- Installed a new fence, barrier, walking path, and completed the stormwater pond at the Agriculture Education Center Pulling Track facility
- Held a clean-up effort to remove graffiti at High Rock Overlook
- Completion of Rose’s Mill Park, that includes an entrance for kayak and canoes
“The completion of the terminal expansion along with several other upgrades at Hagerstown Regional Airport adds to the value we have in both tourism and economic development in Washington County. These upgrades mean that we are growing and expanding. We are looking forward to the continued growth and new business that will come in through the airport.“
– Randall E. Wagner, Commissioner
Hagerstown Regional Airport received over $1 million in CARES Act funding that assisted in paying operational expenses that incurred as a result of COVID-19. In addition to the CARES Act funding, multiple federal and State grants were awarded in order to complete the following projects at HGR:
- Terminal Expansion project, with a project cost of $7.6 million, is expanding the passenger hold room to accommodate larger aircraft
- Installation of a Passenger Boarding Bridge, with a project cost of $1.1 million, will keep customers out of inclement weather while boarding the aircraft
- Runway 9/27 Rehabilitation Project, with a project cost of $6.9 million, for the mill and overlay of HGR’s main runway
The airport also continued offering flights to Myrtle Beach, St. Pete/Clearwater and Orlando Sanford. HGR looks forward to the opening of the new terminal and for passengers to enjoy the new boarding bridge!
Without a doubt, this year has brought unexpected changes and challenges that no one could have predicted at the beginning of 2020. The rate of transition happened at a rapid pace and our workforce had to be ready to work in a different capacity than before. As the local government, it is our duty and responsibility to provide accurate and timely information to our citizens to keep them informed. This has proven most important when in the midst of a global pandemic.
The Public Relations and Marketing office has sent out over 100 briefings informing the public on updates pertaining to COVID-19. In addition to creating graphics, videos and updating the Washington County COVID website, the PR team worked closely with High Rock Studios and the Health Department to create two public messaging campaigns.
THIS IS A HERO campaign was released about six months into the fight against COVID-19. This campaign showcased heroes in our community and emphasized the importance of wearing a mask to protect not only our local heroes, but those we love and care about in our community.
As the pandemic prolonged around the nation and we entered into the winter months, the focus for public messaging shifted to an emphasis on behavioral health.
The PR team again paired up with High Rock studios and behavioral health experts from the Washington County Health Department to launch The Golden Thread campaign. This campaign is an all-inclusive message to help connect those who may be feeling lonely or experiencing thoughts of anxiety, depression, suicide or may be struggling with substance abuse.
The PR Office also launched a quarterly newsletter so citizens can stay informed of happenings across the County. Between the quarterly newsletter, COVID briefings, social media updates, and public messaging campaigns, the public relations team has created many avenues for the public to stay informed.
In March the public relations department released a new website for the county that is optimized for mobile view. This allows citizens to find what they need on the website faster from their mobile phone. The new website also has online job applications which has allowed the Human Resources department to both streamline and reduce the amount of paperwork involved in the application process.
As we push forward into a new year, we are looking forward to working together to sustain our local economy, create new jobs and businesses, keep our families safe and healthy, and to contribute to the kindness in our communities. It will take every citizen stepping up and being an active citizen for our County to be the best place to live, work, and play.
Past State of the County Presentations
Board of County Commissioners
100 West Washington Street
Hagerstown, MD 21740
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