Opinion: Get public water to the airport — and do it now

If you haven’t read the detailed and thorough article in the Salisbury Independent — regarding the joint efforts of the city of Salisbury, Wicomico County, the state of Maryland and the federal government to bring much-needed water to the Salisbury-Wicomico Airport — we encourage you to do so.

Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Bill Chambers, left, and Greater Salisbury Committee CEO Mike Dunn.

The headline about those efforts says it all: “A Simple Project Becomes Not So Simple.”

SBY Airport (its marketing name these days) gets its water from wells on the airport property. Those wells contain nitrates, lead and copper. Enough said.

At the ready, thanks to years of planning by local, state and federal officials — and thanks to the Maryland Board of Public Works — sits more than $4 million in grant money to bring water from a (not too far away) city of Salisbury water tower, through new pipes, to the SBY Airport so that its basic needs, and its expansion needs, can be met.

Standing in the way — at this point — is approval from the Wicomico County Council.

Three members of that body — Bill McCain, Josh Hasting and Council Vice President John Cannon — tried in vain at the most recent council meeting, held as a virtual session on April 7, to get the council to approve both the operating agreement and the Pre-Annexation Agreement that are needed to move the project forward.

After much discussion on the topic, the entire matter was, incredulously, tabled.

So, that’s where we stand.

On behalf of the combined 800-plus businesses and individuals that make up our organizations, we are calling on Council President Larry Dodd to put this matter on the upcoming April 21 County Council agenda; to do whatever is necessary to schedule and hold a public hearing (likely a virtual public hearing) on this matter; to convene the needed “official” work session on this matter; and to move this matter forward.

It doesn’t matter how this “simple project” became mired in endless delays.

We have been closely watching this “simple project” for the better part of a year, and we are fully aware that there has been much rancor, much back and forth, and much political “blamesmanship” throughout.

None of that matters now. What matters now is moving this airport water project forward, without useless delay.

In these unsettling times, the last thing we need is to be the county that had to give the state of Maryland its money back because we couldn’t get a “simple project” off the ground.

Let’s not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Mike Dunn is President and CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee. Bill Chambers is President and CEO of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce.

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