KITZMILER — The Garrett County Board of Commissioners held a public meeting at the Kitzmiller School on Tuesday afternoon.
This was the final meeting of the commissioners’ series of public meetings held around Garrett County, which began back in June.
Tuesday’s meeting featured a light agenda as it began with recognizing appointments to the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Appeals Board. Stephen Gnegy and Michael Beard were reappointed to their positions for three-year terms.
There were also amendments and restatements for the Garrett County Law Enforcement Personnel Pension Plan and the Garrett County Personnel Pension Plan.
The proposed amendments primarily deal with administrative issues, addressing the treatment of covered employee transfers and benefit payments between the Garrett County Personnel Retirement Plan and the Garrett County Law Enforcement Personnel Retirement Plan and updating the trustees of each plan.
The transfer of employees from one plan to the other gives covered employees’ different options to actuarially bring the relative values of the different plans (term and contribution rates) in line.
The last restatement was in 2015.
Public comments followed the agenda items. The first came from Monique Mehring, who brought up an issue regarding the lack of local access to Maryland-base news stations in Garrett County.
“I feel like we should be able to have easier access to television news that happens within our own state instead of relying on Pennsylvania,” said Mehring.
Commission Chairman Paul Edwards talked about how the issue is that it has to be one or the other, and trying to switch stations would upset a lot of people.
“The other question that comes up is that if we do go Maryland television, we would actually fall into the D.C. and Virginia market and not the Baltimore market,” said Edwards. “Even within the people that do want a change, there’s some discrepancy. I can tell you without question that overwhelmingly, the people of this county do not want a change.”
Edwards also said that even if most county residents wanted a station change, and the commission petitioned the FCC for that and went through the whole process, the corporation could still decide that it’s not happening. However, he did agree there should be more choice for county consumers, even though it’s not available right now.
“We have spoken with Congressman Trone to pressure the FCC to allow consumer choice,” said Edwards. “If you can pick which type of internet you want, you should be able to ‘a la carte’ whatever channels you want.
“Unfortunately, for whatever reason, that is not an option, even though everybody and their mother knows that down the road that’s where we’re going to be. We’re just not there yet.”
Mehring said that as long as commissioners are putting pressure on federal agencies and officials, it was a good step.
“I’ll come back and ask you all again in two years,” Mehring said.
“I will tell you this candidly,” said Edwards. “If the three of us could just make this decision without any social ramifications, we would change to add Maryland options, because we all want Maryland television as well. However, it is overwhelming the response we got — literally thousands of emails and phone calls saying, ‘Don’t change our TV ... if we can’t have both.’”
Beccie Glotfelty then asked a question about the lack of cell phone service in the Kitzmiller area in regards to how it hurts the Kitzmiller Fire Department.
“If somebody were in a wreck in the area and got hurt, it’d be really hard for them to contact anybody for help,” said Glotfelty.
Edwards said that unfortunately the commission has zero control when it comes to telling a public company what to do or where to provide service.
“We have asked multiple times to find ways to increase the capacity of cellular service in the county,” said Edwards. “.. To get AT&T, Verizon, US Cellular or fill-in-the-blank to put better service here out of the ‘kindness of their hearts’ is very difficult.
“We are hoping to allowing any company to use our stuff to boost that capacity in areas that need it.”
The next public county commission meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 3 at the Board of County Commissioners Public Meeting Room in Oakland.