Another Stab: Lisanti Addresses Funding/Spending Practices of Heritage Greenway

We try to anticipate your questions and concerns and build them into our interviews so they are fully explained within our stories. But sometimes your minds work in ways ours don’t, and good questions go unasked and unanswered. That’s why we’re delighted to bring you Another Stab – a chance to get your follow-up questions answered right from the source.

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This time we look back to the recent new that Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway projects received $231,000 in grants.

The story described how the four grants for $231,000 would be spent:

Two of the grants ($100,000, $40,000, respectively) will be used by Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway for management and marketing efforts. The third grant, $57,000 to the Town of Perryville, will be used toward Phase III of the Rodgers Tavern Readiness Project. The fourth grant, $34,000 to the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum, will be used for a schools-based oral history project, a scale model of a War of 1812-era town and a traveling exhibition.

Reader “Wasted Money” was quick to question why more than half of the grant funds were being spent on operational expenses:

You have got to be kidding! More than half of the grant money is going to pay for operating expenses of the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, not benefiting projects in the area. Could you imagine if another non-profit (like the United Way) used over 50% of its donations to pay for its staff. Someone (Brian I am referring to you) should look very closely into this organization and determine whether the grants are legitimate or merely a pass through to pay politically connected staff.

When posed this question, Harford County Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti, who is also executive director of the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, provided the following response:

“Thanks for the opportunity to explain this rather complex state program and how it benefits both Harford and Cecil Counties.

The Maryland Heritage Area Program was created by the State Legislature in 1996 as a tool for local communities to develop a comprehensive management plan to enact land use plans, policies and capital projects to conserve and protect natural, historic, environmental and cultural resources. In order for a community to become a certified heritage area, they must develop a management plan with extensive community input and amend their local master plans legislatively to appoint a “management entity” to execute and implement the projects identified in the management plan. In 2000-2003, the LSHG was legislatively designate by the Governments of Harford and Cecil Counties, the towns of Port Deposit, Perryville and City of Havre de Grace to be the local management entity for this heritage area. There are now 10 similar heritage areas in Maryland.

Once a community establishes a priority capital project, the LSHG identifies and obtain funding which always requires multiple sources (public and private). In most cases the various grants are researched, written and managed by the LSHG. None of our partnering local governments or museums have full-time grant administrators or writers. During my tenure as Executive Director, the LSHG has obtained and leveraged more than 15 million dollars in project funding for our bi-county heritage area.

Only the management entity is eligible for management funds; however you must first provide a minimum of a 100% cash match for the funds you are requesting. This budget year, the LSHG’s match is $4.00 to every $1.00 requested. The funds the LSHG received from the State will be used to pay for technical staff such as engineers, surveyors, skilled artisans etc. to preserve historic sites, obtain permits and assist our local communities to complete their capital projects. Other requirements include strict accountability and full written support from your local Delegates and Senators.

For example, the LSHG has partnered with the Town of Perryville, the State Highway Administration and the Department of Natural Resources to build a 750 ft pier in Perryville. The LSHG provides project management and engineering services to the Town (free of charge). Another example is the LSHG is providing engineering services to the City of Havre de Grace to develop their waterfront public access plan. In the case of the Rocks’ Road issue, the LSHG asked the State Highway Administration to create the community task force and therefore is providing planning, and technical assistance to the task force (free of charge). Simply stated, the management funds are used to provide technical expertise for capital projects that local governments are unable to fund independently. Capital dollars are solely used for construction.

The LSHG is dedicated to enhancing public access and recreation in this region. We use our public and private funding to preserve the history, culture and natural resources that make the Upper Bay and beautiful place to live, work and play. We have many exciting projects on the horizon.

Mary Ann”