Proposal 'generous' to county

January 28, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

Washington County would get $19.7 million for construction projects ranging from trash disposal to new prison cells under Gov. Robert Ehrlich's proposed capital budget released Tuesday.

In addition, the budget includes $750,000 in grants to four county nonprofit organizations that have been waiting three years for state money.

By far the single largest local project in the budget is capping the Resh Road Landfill, to which the state would contribute $10 million.


In addition, the county would get $2.1 million toward renovation of Salem Avenue Elementary School and $1.8 million for various water and sewer projects.

Ehrlich's spending plan includes $1 million in planning money for a new housing unit at Maryland Correctional Training Center. The 192-cell unit will replace outdated Quonset hut housing.

The Hagerstown Housing Authority will get $3.3 million to leverage federal money for the $73.5 million Gateway Crossing project in Hagerstown's West End.

"It looks like it was a very generous budget to Washington County," said Delegation Chairman Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

The four nonprofit organizations due to receive money are:

  • American Red Cross, $250,000 for its new headquarters off Eastern Boulevard in Hagerstown.

  • Cumberland Valley Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, $200,000 toward a training center. The group may put the center in the former Hagerstown Armory on Potomac Street in Hagerstown.

  • Girls Inc., $200,000 toward a new gymnasium at its West Washington Street facility in Hagerstown.

  • Boys and Girls Club, $100,000 toward a new gymnasium at Noland Village in Hagerstown.

Washington County lawmakers have been trying to get the grants since 2001 as part of the legislative bond bill process, by which the state borrows money and gives grants to nonprofit organizations.

Each year, the Senate has killed local bond bills. But in an 11th-hour deal on the eve of the session's end last year, Ehrlich agreed to put them in his capital budget.

The Maryland General Assembly will review Ehrlich's proposed 2004-05 budget, possibly making cuts and approving it before the end of the legislative session in April.

Although money was tight, Ehrlich said he emphasized education, health and the environment in his $847 million statewide capital budget. However, the $101.6 million budgeted for public school construction is the lowest amount in recent years.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, has a plan to boost that by about $40 million by eliminating a loophole in state law that exempts some corporate real estate transactions from transfer taxes.

Busch said he hasn't reviewed Ehrlich's plan and declined to comment.

Ehrlich said he tried to distribute the money fairly throughout the state without regard to politics.

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