Leggett to miss Silver Spring Transit Center meeting -- Gazette.Net







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Despite a request from the Montgomery County Council, County Executive Isiah Leggett will not attend a briefing Wednesday on the Silver Spring Transit Center.

Executive spokesman Patrick Lacefield said Leggett (D) instead will be attending an event with Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at Benjamin Banneker Middle School in Burtonsville.

Council President Nancy Navarro said she hopes Leggett would reconsider, as the council respectfully requested his presence at the briefing.

“We are hoping that he’ll change his mind but so far we’ve been told that he is sending his staff,” she said.

Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring said when an elected body asks an elected official to appear before it, that should be honored.

“It is puzzling to us,” she said, adding that even if Leggett does not attend, the council will hold the briefing.

“I think it reflects poorly on him, in terms of how he is handling this situation,” Navarro said.

Meanwhile, two other council members are asking that Inspector General Edward L. Blansitt III investigate “all relevant matters connected to the transit center.”

The council requested regular briefings from the executive branch on the transit center, after a report revealed that its delay and structural issues were vast and responsibility widespread.

But the council hopes Wednesday’s meeting will reveal why the executive branch sat for two weeks on a letter from Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s asserting that it would not operate the beleaguered Silver Spring Transit Center once complete.

WMATA, which operates Metro and related transit services, partnered with the county on the $120 million transit hub.

Both parties signed an agreement detailing that the county would build a transit center able to last for 50 years and WMATA would own and operate it, Lacefield said.

The Silver Spring Transit Center was slated to open in 2011, but a series of cracks found in the structure and disparities in the thickness of the concrete have delayed the project’s opening by nearly two years so far, and it’s unclear when the center will be open for business.

In a letter sent to Department of General Services Director David Dise on April 12, the transit authority cited “deficiencies of design and construction of the facility ... of the magnitude and severity, that even if repaired...would unnecessarily place an inordinate maintenance burden onto WMATA.”

Upon reading the letter in the Washington Post, all nine council members wrote Leggett asking that he personally appear before them to answer questions on what they felt was a significant development that should have been immediately made known to the council.

Lacefield said the executive branch did not intend to keep the council in the dark, and should have given council members a heads up when the Washington Post submitted a large request for public information and that the letter was part of the county’s response.

The only reason the executive branch did not immediately inform the council of the letter was because staff was working to discern the letter’s exact meaning, Lacefield said.

“We work closely with the council on this issue and want to continue to work closely with them,” he said. “There was no ill-will or ill-intention on any side.”

The IG investigation request was contained in a letter from Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Takoma Park to his colleagues. The letter says Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Takoma Park agrees with the request.

“Our Inspector General has specialized expertise in assessing financial practices, management processes and contractor conduct that are invaluable to the county. It is in our residents’ interest that the Inspector General examine all events pertaining to the problems at the transit center so that accountability can be exercised and we can ensure that such a disaster never happens again,” Riemer’s letter says.

Riemer said he was proposing $100,000 be added to the inspector general’s budget to handle the probe.