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Harford County attractions funded by General Assembly, but not fully

As the tourism community continues to grow in Harford County, several go-to historical and educational attractions in the county requested state funding during the 2014 legislative session in Annapolis.

The requests, including those for the Harford de Grace Maritime Museum expansion and the Havre de Grace Opera House restoration, were partially funded.

The same was true for the planned restoration of Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton and the Historical Society of Harford County's headquarters in Bel Air, both which received partial funding.

Harford Delegation Chair Del. Rick Impallaria said that every session the Senate and House of Delegates are given $14 million to fund bonds around the state. More than $200 million in funding is requested by organizations each year, Impallaria said.

"You ask for more than you expect to get and hope you get more than you truly need," Impallaria said.

Southern Harford Del. Mary-Dulany James introduced a bill for a $200,000 bond for the restoration of the Historical Society headquarters. The General Assembly approved a $50,000 bond.

The Havre de Grace Opera House restoration was approved for a $50,000 bond, which is $200,000 less than what was originally requested in another James' bill.

James also introduced a bill for a $75,000 bond for the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum; $50,000 was approved.

"All of these places have a community benefit," Impallaria said. "The opera house serves the community and the arts and has an old time feel, like the Maritime Museum. It's preserving a piece of history so people can see what the world used to be like before just video games."

Del. David D. Rudolph, who represents western Cecil County, sponsored a bill for a $150,000 bond to restore some of the historic former Tome School buildings at Bainbridge.

A bond of $100,000 was approved, which will go to the quasi-public Bainbridge Development Corporation, according to legislative documents. Most of the money will be used to stabilize the buildings which are on the former naval training center property in Port Deposit.

One local project that did get all of the funding requested – $50,000 – is the Edgewood Community Support Center, a nonprofit run by Mountain Christian Church from an abandoned strip mall, which sought $50,000 to complete work on the facility that couldn't be done because of budget constraints, according to legislative documents.

A $14,000 match to the state funding will be provided through Mountain Christian and its partners, according to the documents. James also sponsored the Edgewood Support Center bond.

During the session, trustees from Ladew Topiary Gardens met with the Harford delegation to request a $500,000 bond from the state to increase the visitor experience at the gardens on Jarrettsville Pike.

The trustees plan to expand visitor parking, creating a more welcoming design for guests, and expand and relocate the maintenance facility on the property.

Ladew Gardens received $110,000 in funding instead of the full $500,000 it requested. Both the Harford delegation and western Harford Sen. J.B. Jennings sponsored companion bills for the money, with the $110,000 coming from the Senate's allocation.

Impallaria said the trustees at Ladew Gardens presented a great case for their funding. He said they had a plan to secure other sources of funding for the project.

Impallaria said the Baltimore County executive and county council sent also letters in support of Ladew.

"Ladew Gardens brought us a bond bill and put on a good presentation talking about their work with the library and the school system," Impallaria said. "We got tons of letters in support for them from Baltimore County."

Although the delegation was unable to get full funding for Ladew Gardens, Impallaria said the partial funding for Ladew and the other projects still should be helpful.

"It might mean they have to scale their project back some," Impallaria said. "But these are projects that would probably be stalled and wouldn't normally get financing from a bank."

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