Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Commissioners take first look at six-year construction budget

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The Frederick Board of County Commissioners got its first look Jan. 29, at a draft six-year construction budget that includes plans for new fire stations, libraries, parks, roads and schools.

The ‘‘Capital Improvement Program,” or construction plan, starts in fiscal 2009 and goes through fiscal 2014. The draft budget showed the county spending about $836 million during the six-year period on construction projects.

That number could change when budget officials present commissioners with their final recommendations for spending in the next few weeks.

Last week’s presentation from budget officials got off to a rocky start when Board President Jan H. Gardner (D) said she was displeased that she got the materials just hours before the meeting.

Commissioners were confused with a new form of spreadsheets detailing projects and spending.

‘‘Part of the problem is that I didn’t get the materials until this morning and I was in a meeting this morning,” she said.

Gardner was also concerned about several of the projects that had construction and design start dates moved back from last year.

For example, improvements to the county’s Public Training Facility moved from fiscal 2010 to 2013, and work on the Walkersville Library Branch moved from beginning in fiscal 2010 to 2011.

County Manager Ron Hart said a $56 million shortfall in fiscal 2009 forced budget officials to postpone several projects.

‘‘So it was a very difficult thing we had to work through to get [the budget] balanced,” Hart said.

‘‘Operating costs played a great decision in the CIP projects,” Hart said.

Gardner wasn’t buying it.

‘‘All these things that moved [back] are going to get a lot of consideration,” she said.

Commissioners did receive some good news.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s (D) state budget for fiscal 2009, which starts July 1, earmarks $500,000 for the construction of a new Brunswick Library Branch, said Kelly Weaver, assistant budget officer.

But before Brunswick gets the money, the entire budget must be approved by the Maryland General Assembly.

Kudos from commissioners went out to Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R), and his conservative spending.

Weaver announced that Jenkins withdrew his requests for a new sheriff substation in Thurmont and Carroll Manor.

‘‘The sheriff deserves the taxpayers’ adulations,” Commissioner Charles A. Jenkins (R) said.

Commissioner John ‘‘Lennie” Thompson Jr. (R) agreed.

Several school projects have also been moved back, according to budget documents.

For example, an addition to Yellow Springs Elementary School was moved back one year, from fiscal 2009 to 2010.

An addition to Brunswick High School was moved back two years, from fiscal 2009, with a finish date in 2012 to starting in 2012 and finishing in 2014.