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Cuts in Md. roads money a cause for concern

March 03, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Works Director Gary Rohrer, testifying before the Maryland House Appropriations Committee on Friday, pleaded for state officials to soften the blow of budget cuts on county highway departments.

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich's proposed 2004 state budget calls for a $2.3 million cut in Washington County's highway user fee money from the state. The county said that amount represents 46 percent of the county's highway department budget.

Rohrer said he spoke in Annapolis as a county official, a representative of the Maryland Association of Counties and as past president of the County Engineers Association of Maryland.

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The committee was taking testimony on possible budget cuts but the change they seemed most concerned about was one addressing highway user revenue, he said.

If the state is going to take money away from the counties for road maintenance, it is going to need to find a way to maintain county roads, Rohrer said. Otherwise counties are going to need to defer other government projects, he said.

The cut, part of Ehrlich's attempt to balance the state budget, comes at a particular bad time, Rohrer and Highway Director Ted Wolford said.

The county on Friday finished the snowiest February in at least 100 years, according to weather observer Greg Keefer.

During bad storms, some water gets under roads and causes potholes, Wolford said. Some potholes are already appearing but they can't be patched or fixed until the weather improves, he said.

"This is going to be the worst year for potholes ... in 15 years," Wolford said.

That is due to a combination of a winter with more snowfall than usual and roads growing old, he said.

The county is not sure where it is going to find the money to repair the potholes, he said. The department may have to do fewer road overlays or other work, he said.

Last week, Wolford submitted a revised $6.4 million proposed budget to the county for fiscal 2004, down from the $7.5 million budget request that had been planned. The change was made because of the proposed state budget.

The county department's budget this year is $7 million.

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