Towns using casino impact grants to fund area projects

Towns using casino impact grants to fund area projects

(Jan. 17, 2014) Ocean City used its money on streets, Berlin used its money to retire debt on a property purchase, Ocean Pines used its money to pave roads and Worcester County used its money to pave roads, purchase vehicles and pay debt on Worcester Technical High School.

The money was a share of proceeds from the Casino at Ocean Downs.

Known as local impact grants, the funds were part of Senate Bill 3 in the 2007 special session of the Maryland General Assembly, and approved by state voters in the 2008 general election. According to that legislation, the local impact grants must be used in the communities in immediate proximity to the video lottery facilities and may be used for infrastructure improvements, facilities, public safety, sanitation, economic and community development, including housing, and other public service and improvements.

In reports to the Local Development Council, a state-mandated group to oversee use of the local impact grants, each entity provided information about expenses, which council members reviewed during Monday’s meeting in Snow Hill.

Ocean City reported using $454,943.50 in its grant funds for street paving in fiscal year 2013. It had no funds remaining at the end of that fiscal year and spent $41,994.88 of its own funds to complete that paving work. For fiscal year 2014, it anticipates spending $570,525 of impact funds on road paving.

Worcester County reported spending $202,050 in fiscal year 2012 for eight vehicles, five for the Sheriff’s Office, two for the Fire Marshal’s Office and one for the state’s attorney. On June 30, 2013, the county has $3.13 million remaining.

Funds of $2 million will be used to pay debt service on Worcester Technical High School during fiscal year 2014.

The Ocean Pines Association spent $571,545 on road paving from Dec. 1, 2012 through April 30, 2013. It anticipates spending approximately $500,000 on road paving from Sept. 1, 2014 through April 30, 2015.

In a letter to the Local Development Council, Ocean Pines Association Controller Art Carmine wrote that until the homeowners association starts receiving pass through funds from the state for roads, the funds would continue to be used for road maintenance.

On behalf of the town of Berlin, Mayor Gee Williams did not fill out the county’s form as requested, but wrote a letter stating that the town received $227,474.35 in slots impact grant funds during fiscal year 2013. All of those funds were used to pay the principal and interest payments for the purchase of 5.25 acres of property adjacent to Route 113 and Bay Street extended.

The total purchase price of the property, $828,530, was paid off June 30, 2103, two years ahead of schedule.

The town will now begin using its share of impact grant funds to solicit and award design and engineering plans for a new municipal police station at the site.

After those planning costs are paid, money from the impact grant will be accrued to pay for the new police headquarters when it is built. Until that time, a small portion of the impact grant funds will be used to improve sidewalks in the town and to promote tourism in the town by targeting patrons of the Casino at Ocean Downs and the racetrack.


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