City seeks sustainable community status

·3 min read

Jan. 7—CUMBERLAND — City officials are hoping Cumberland will soon become certified by the state as a sustainable community, a prerequisite for many funding opportunities.

Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss and the City Council met in a work session Tuesday to discuss progress on the sustainable community application, which they hope can be submitted to the state before the end of the month.

The certification period is for five years. Cumberland was first approved in 2013 and renewed in 2017. The current application is for 2022-2026.

Sustainable Maryland is a certification program for municipalities in Maryland that want to become more environmentally responsible, save money and take steps to sustain quality of life over the long term. The program is a collaborative effort between the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland and the Maryland Municipal League.

Ken Tressler, the city's director of administrative services, and Lee Borror, senior community development specialist, spoke about the benefits of the program during a Tuesday work session.

"You have to have this approved to get Community Legacy grants such as the Strategic Demolition (Fund), so it is a really important distinction," said Tressler.

The Maryland Department of Community Development administers both Community Legacy funding and the Strategic Demolition Fund, which is a critical resource for helping to raze blighted buildings, according to the officials.

Borror said certification also makes cities "available to other departments with the state that also have potential funding sources like grants and loans and other things."

Municipalities that apply are required to submit plans for progress in numerous categories, including energy efficiency, recycling, waste reduction, water conservation, workplace wellness, green purchasing, buying local, transportation, tree placement, storm water management and watershed plans.

Municipalities that achieve the sustainable community status are fast-tracked for grants to help them reach their goals.

"They get to see ahead of time that you have a plan in place," said Borror. "Instead of piecemealing the funding that would come from the state, it would be concentrated in an area that it can actually have an effect."

Borror said many of the current projects in the city can be included within the application as part of green planning already in process. As part of the effort, the city has partnered with more than 20 local agencies and organizations to help reach the goals in the application.

"It helps to bring all the different community agencies together and help generate a cohesive plan together on how we are going to address these key topics over the next five years," said Morriss.

Benefactors include the Riverside YMCA, Allegany College of Maryland, Allegany Museum, the Gordon-Roberts House and numerous city projects like upper story redevelopment, lease-hold funding, and high speed broadband installation.

Councilman Rock Cioni said he would like to see public transportation become a focus under the program.

"This had been an area that has been discussed for some time," he said. "It seems to be a huge benefit for people who are trying to get back on track."

The mayor and City Council are expected to approve the application by vote on Jan. 18 with the package sent to the state by Jan. 26.

Greg Larry is a reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email glarry@times-news.com and follow him on Twitter.

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