Hancock council declines five grants for park projects, citing lack of bids & high dollar matches

Greenwill Consulting employees Bill Valentine and David Lynd update Hancock officials at their September 14 monthly meeting.

by Kate Shunney

Five projects to upgrade or equip Hancock parks have been removed from consideration for Project Open Space grants after a vote by Hancock town officials last Tuesday, September 14.

Bill Valentine, who is an employee of Greenwill Consulting lobbying group and is acting as Hancock’s advisor in lieu of a town manager, recommended Hancock council members drop the grant requests.

Valentine said several of the grants were missing bid documents, records of advertisements for bids and other materials that Project Open Space would require to move ahead with the grant requests.

He also said some of the grants would only pay for a portion of a project, like engineering services or work the town has already completed.

The five grants were for:

–Improving drainage at Kirkwood Park

–Improving a plaza and parking along the Western Maryland Rail Trail, plus resurfacing

— Installing a septic system at Kirkwood Park

–Building a bike connector trail between Widmeyer Park and the Western Maryland Rail Trail

— Building a disc golf course at Kirkwood Park.

Councilman David Kerns and Councilwoman Misty Cubbage made the motions to decline the grants, saying the town shouldn’t go after the funds without proper bidding, financing for other parts of the projects or permission from property owners and state agencies that might be involved in the projects.

For example, drainage work and septic upgrades at Kirkwood Park don’t have permit approval from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) as far as town officials know.

The Rail Trail plaza work has already been done, in part, by the town.

Other grants require a cash match from the town, which council members were not prepared to approve.

Council members said the bike connector trail and disc golf projects would get their support, but need property owner approval or a better cost estimate to proceed.

Councilman Kerns said he thought it was the right thing to do for Hancock to decline the grants if they weren’t ready to proceed with the projects, and let other entities have a chance to use the Project Open Space grant funds.

“It’s much easier to say no to it this year, then reapply,” said Valentine.

Valentine said he would ask a state Circuit Rider to come conduct a “class” for council and staff on how to handle grant applications and record-keeping.