Cecil County Farm Plan Could Put County On a $414K Hook

May 24, 2011

Cecil County could be on the hook for $414,500 if state rural land preservation funds don’t come through next year for a farmland easement deal backed by three county commissioners.

At the least, the county would be fronting $620,000 for the Cecil Land Trust now to buy an easement on the Jacob and Virginia Carson farm located on Route 274 near Rising Sun. About $214,500 from federal farm and ranchland protection funds could be received fairly quickly in Fiscal 2012, as a partial reimbursement to the county.

But Cecil Land Trust president William Kilby told the County Commissioners Tuesday “there are no guarantees” that the balance of the cost would be reimbursed by state Rural Legacy Funds and the best-case scenario was that the state money would only be paid out in Fiscal 2013.

It was Kilby’s second appearance this month before the County Commissioners to pitch the proposal. (See previous Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2011/05/cecil-county-commissioners-get-earful-from-perryville-mayor-dog-parents/

Kilby’s group has yet to formally apply for either the state or federal aid programs. During his last appearance, two commissioners insisted on seeing a formal written proposal for the project before making any commitments. Kilby presented a two page summary of the plan Tuesday but there were no appraisal or application documents.

County planning staff said the county’s farmland preservation fund has about $1 million and that the Carson farms were the top priority for protection. But in the past the owners’ asking price was too high.

Kilby claimed that he had negotiated a better deal on the two parcels totaling 143 acres.
“You should thank us for saving the county $600,000,” Kilby declared.

But Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) was more concerned than Kilby with how much assurance there was that the fiscally strapped state would ever come through with its reimbursement to the county and the county would be “stuck” shelling out the costs up front.

“I can’t guarantee you anything,” Kilby said. Since the county has its own farm preservation fund, he added, “The county has some money so we should use it.”

Commissioners James Mullin (R-1) and Diana Broomell (R-4) had voiced strong support for Kilby’s proposal, even before anything in writing was presented. At the previous meeting, Mullin indicated he had a “nod” of support from Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3).

There was no formal vote and Commissioners indicated they would wait for an appraisal and federal grant application process before taking the next steps.

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