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WCBC’s 12 Top Stories of 2019

January 1st, 2020 by WCBC Radio

WCBC's Twelve Top Stories of 2019 include…

131 years of papermaking at the mill at Luke came to a halt at the end of May when the Verso mill ceased production. In addition to the financial hits to the families involved and the economic shot to the region, it was also an emotional time for generations of papermakers.

Will the Cumberland Economic Development Corporation expand its efforts beyond the city limits into all of Allegany County. In the middle of the year, it seemed like a foregone conclusion. As 2019 comes to a close, there are questions as to whether it will happen.

The Potomac River has always gone by Cumberland, but the recreational aspects have never been developed. That seems poised to change with the River Park at Canal Place proposal, which is in the planning stage. It could be a big win for the region, if completed.

While the bridges over CSX railroad tracks on Cumberland's West Side continue to be closed to traffic, there was agreement between the city and CSX officials. A single lane temporary span will be put in place on Fayette Street, and work on replacing the Cumberland Street bridge is set for 2020.

In the middle of the year, Cumberland City Councilman Seth Bernard was riding bikes with his wife when he came upon a vagrant that told him to leave the city and to stay away. It was not an isolated incident, and local residents say that the vagrants are becoming more aggressive.

It seemed only a matter of time once there was a power shift on the Allegany County Board of Education. Superintendent Dr. David Cox was contacted about taking over as Director of Schools in Sullivan County in his home state of Tennessee. He was selected in May and it was adios amigos.

It was a novel approach, three candidates running for a five person board with the idea of affecting change. Bob Farrell, David Bohn and Wayne Foote ran as a team, which lasted most of the year until Foote was removed at the behest of a vote taken by the previous board.

Many of our local teams pray before and after games, but the post game prayers of the Frankfort Football team brought a complaint by a parent and a national focus of the Freedom From Religion group, who said it was inappropriate. Local officials disagreed.

Interstate 68 has been along the same route in the Cumberland area for more than 50 years, but a rash of truck accidents and fires became regular occurrences during the past year, and brought a State Police enforcement initiative and a pavement grooving project on Haystack Mountain.

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad has been in the midst of a problem ridden restoration of Steam Engine 1309, and a performance audit of the railroad found numerous issues with the operations not only reflecting on current management, but going back several years.

January of 2019 brought change to Allegany County Emergency Services as longtime director Dick DeVore retired and EMS Division Chief Robert Pattison was ousted due to reasons never fully explained. Retired Maryland State Police Major Jim Pyles was eventually named to run the department.

In the run up to the Fiscal 2020 budget, the Allegany County Animal Shelter said it needed more money, or it would have to turn the operations back to the county. The demand was withdrawn, but the year ended with the shelter telling the commissioners it was short of funds.

The stories are listed in no particular order.

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