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Public Works boss: Funds needed for road repairs

November 06, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

About 25 percent of Washington County's roads are severely cracked and crumbling, and conditions are going to get worse if the state doesn't increase money to help repair them, Washington County Director of Public Works Gary Rohrer said Wednesday.

Rohrer, who was a guest speaker at the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's Eggs and Issues breakfast at the Plaza Hotel, said news of state funding shortages relating to county roads "seems to fall on deaf ears."

"It's something we've become numb to and apathetic about," Rohrer said.

Rohrer said he plans to "beat on" the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to make sure money for road repairs is increased, even if it means raising the gas tax to do so.

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Rohrer said that counties across the state took a blow this fiscal year after the state deeply pared Highway User Revenues (HURs), which are dollars generated by the gas tax.

Washington County sustained a 26 percent budget cut to its share of HURs from the state. As a result, the county will be limited in the number and type of road repairs it can perform.

While the life expectancy of a road is 16 years, it will take a span of 35 years before the county would be able to repair a particular road at the current level of highway funding, he said.

"It's getting worse, folks," Rohrer said. "It's not getting any better."

Also at the meeting, Hagerstown Regional Airport Manager Carolyn Motz gave an update on the county's $60 million runway extension project.

The federal government will contribute $47 million toward the extension over 10 years. The state will pay about $10.6 million, which includes a 5 percent share of $2.6 million and an additional $8 million.

The county will match the state's 5 percent share of $2.6 million toward the project, Motz said.

Because the extension must be completed in four years to comply with federal safety regulations, but some state and federal money will be paid over 10 years, the county will be required to pay finance costs in order to keep up with the project's timeline, Motz said.

Motz did not give an estimate of how much those finance costs would be, but said the airport was trying to minimize them.

She said the county has asked that the state rearrange its funding schedule for the project to decrease finance expenses. Under the county's proposal, the state would pay the county $3 million in fiscal year 2004, which is the current fiscal year; $3 million in fiscal year 2005 and $2 million in fiscal year 2006.

"If we're able to do that, we'll be able to keep our project right on schedule," Motz said.

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