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Capital budget kind to Washington County

January 23, 2002

Capital budget kind to Washington County

 

By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Gov. Parris Glendening earmarked $29 million for local capital projects in 2003, pleasing local lawmakers who weren't sure what to expect in a tough budget year.

As bargained, Glendening set aside $12.4 million to renovate the Baldwin House complex in downtown Hagerstown for the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center.

The second-largest local project in the budget is $11.2 million to upgrade Hagerstown's Waste Water Treatment Plant on Frederick Street.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said he was thankful that Washington County fared well.

"In these austere times, that amount of money for capital projects is very significant," he said.

The University System education center and everything else in the $1.1 billion capital budget will have to survive the Maryland General Assembly's budget ax this session.

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Lawmakers are under pressure to cut enough money to pay for a 2 percent income tax cut that Glendening wants to delay.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said he will work to safeguard the education center project.

"This may be our only opportunity to get higher education in Washington County. We've got to do it," Munson said.

Munson said Washington County should be thankful that the education center project is moving forward, along with the extension of the Hagerstown Regional Airport's runway.

Maryland's long-term transportation plan released Tuesday did not include money for runway extension. But Munson said he was told the state plans to spend $197,000 on preliminary engineering for the runway extension in the next budget year, which begins July 1.

"The business community in Washington County really ought to be cheering the delegation's efforts, and their own," he said.

In a year when many school construction projects were turned down, Washington County got all $1.4 million it requested.

For local schools, the state has budgeted:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> $686,000 to finish the renovation and addition at Williamsport Elementary School.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> $480,000 to replace the 25-year-old roof at Springfield Middle School.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> $195,000 for a new chiller at Western Heights Middle School.

The state also has given Washington County the go-ahead to start planning the modernization of Salem Avenue Elementary, said Dennis McGee, the School Board's Facilities Director.

Glendening, who has spent $250 million a year on school construction over the last four years, deflated it to about $146 million for 2003.

That didn't hurt Washington County this year because of the modest amount requested. Washington County couldn't afford to leverage any more than it did because it's still catching up from paying for major renovations at South Hagerstown High School and Williamsport Elementary, McGee said.

Competition with other school districts could be a factor in 2004, when the Salem Avenue renovation will compete with all the school construction projects that were delayed statewide in 2003.

Other Washington County projects in the capital budget include:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> ARC of Washington County, adult day care center, $764,000.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Maryland Correctional Institution, waste water treatment, $601,000.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Pen Mar Water System construction, $440,000

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> W House of Hagerstown, residential substance abuse treatment center, $436,000.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Sharpsburg Water Treatment Plant upgrade, $200,000.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> On Our Own of Maryland Inc., community housing, $168,000.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Fort Frederick Officers' Quarters reconstruction, $140,000.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Winebrenner Waste Water Treatment Plant equipment, $100,000.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> South Mountain Battlefield, museum buildings renovation, $75,000.

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