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WCBC looks back at top news stories of 2015

January 2nd, 2016 by WCBC Radio

WCBC Top Stories of 2015

Zoning appeals are usually fairly routine affairs, but that wasn’t the case when Dan’s Mountain Wind Force asked for variances and a special exception for a wind farm in Western Allegany County.  The local zoning appeals board gave it a thumbs down, but that decision is being appealed in court.

Dr. Jonathan Gibralter resigned as President of Frostburg State University.  Gibralter touted an aggressive campaign against student drinking during his tenure, which also saw a number of capital improvements.  He moved to Wells College in New York, and was succeeded on an interim basis by Dr. Tom Bowling.

New Page merged with Verso this year, and some local residents were alarmed when Verso stock tanked, leading to a de-listing by the New York Stock Exchange.  Local officials, though, say they’ve been given assurances the Luke Mill is on strong footing, after recent multi-million dollar improvements.

Local police found themselves in the thick of things in 2015.  In April,  officers were called to restore and keep order during and after the Freddie Gray Riots in Baltimore, while locally, issues surrounding drug addiction continue to be problematic, not only for the cops, but prosecutors and politicians.

Bart Alan Mazer pleaded guilty to sex related charges in Allegany County Circuit Court, receiving a one year jail sentence.  Two females say they were lured by Mazer to his home, and one of them successfully sued the Allegany County Board of Education for damages.  Terms of the settlement remained sealed.

The Allegany High School Replacement Project had an uneven year, as bids for the long awaited projects came in several million dollars higher than estimates.  The school board has decided to rebid the project in early 2016, and local political leaders are working to secure additional state funding for a new Alco.

Cumberland officials took bold steps in economic development, moving efforts outside of the local government through the Cumberland Economic Development Corporation.  One of the first initiatives involves purchasing properties in the area of the former Rolling Mill.  While it’s been praised by some, others remain skeptical.

David Kauffman was once considered one of the fresh, new voices on Cumberland City Council, but surprised many when he announced in October that he was resigning due to accepting employment in Anne Arundel County.  Replacing Kauffman will be one of the first items of business in 2016.

One of the major economic development successes during the past year has been the opening of a Webstaurant stores warehouse in Mexico Farms.  Employment at the facility has quickly grown to over 100, and the future appears to be bright and secure as the jobs come with a benefit package.

A sexual assault case was settled against former local MedExpress Dr William Dando this year, with prosecutors not going forward with a criminal trial, and Dando agreeing to surrender his license to practice in Maryland.  The state cited the “She said/He said” nature of the case in deciding against a formal prosecution. 

The Queen City Creamery will go on after a blitz to find a buyer to maintain the business in Downtown Cumberland.  Owner Terry Michel had tried for several years to find a buyer, but things didn’t seem to move until she announced plans to close.  The Freas family has stepped up, and will reopen in 2016.

The Footer Dye Works Building has been targeted for redevelopment as part of Canal Place for years, and seemingly in the midst of a last gasp when a group headed by developer Michael Joy was selected for the project and started construction in the fall.  A brew pub will anchor the lower floor retail space.

 

Flying drones have brought aerial photography and exploration to a new level, but there seem to be a few loopholes that need to be closed.  State and local officials were able to thwart efforts to ship contraband into the Western Correctional Institute in Cresaptown over the summer, thanks to prison recon and investigation.

Bridges over the CSX Railroad tracks in Cumberland have been deteriorating for years, and options to repair or replace the spans have run into a number of obstacles as the railroad requires higher clearances than the current bridges provide.  City officials want to proceed with options that don’t wreck West Side neighborhoods.

Allegany County officials have pointed out that economic development initiatives have been scuttled by Maryland State Highway Administration officials who have been slow to act on permits, or have issued requirements that have turned off businesses.  That has changed with the administration of Governor Larry Hogan.

Ever since the completion of Interstate 68, officials have been looking for a North South Corridor to add to the economic lure of the community.  This year, Governor Larry Hogan announced that the Maryland portion of the corridor from Interstate 68 to the Pennsylvania line would be funded and completed in the next few years.

Peak Harvest Health gained local support for an application for a medical cannabis license from the State of Maryland.  Purportedly, each congressional district will receive two of the licenses, which now will not be determined until the middle of 2016.  The delay is due to a heavier than anticipated number of applicants.

Parking in downtown Cumberland continued to be at a premium during 2015, and the problems were exacerbated when policies and rates were changed at Canal Place and the Cumberland Times News.  Many were unaware of the changes and wound up paying towing and storage fees after regs were more stringently enforced.

 

The former home of Artmor Plastics went up in flames on Veteran’s Day, after being set ablaze, according to the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s office.  An 18 year old was arrested and charged in the case, and other juveniles may have been involved in the case as well.  The future of the site is also a matter of conjecture.     

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