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Commissioners OK bonds for runway

February 22, 2006|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The majority of the Washington County Commisssioners approved borrowing $25.5 million on Tuesday, including $15 million that will go toward a longer runway at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration will reimburse the county for the $15 million, but the county will have to pay the financing costs.

Commissioner John C. Munson, who voted against borrowing the money, said the move will increase the county's total debt from $144 million to $169.5 million.

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"That's way too much for the the taxpayers of the county," Munson said. "I feel bad."

The County Commissioners voted 3-2 to issue bonds to finance some of the $60.2 million runway project.

In the same vote, the commissioners agreed to issue bonds in the amount of $10.5 million. That money will pay for capital projects, such as the road, bridge and school construction projects, Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, Nipps and Commissioner James F. Kercheval supported the action.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell and Commissioner John C. Munson voted against it. Both also voted against the runway extension project in 2003.

Munson said after the meeting that $25.5 million was too much for the county to finance.

He said taxpayers will end up paying millions of dollars in interest.

Wivell repeated his complaint about the runway project, saying he was led to believe the county wouldn't have to pay finance costs.

Nipps said by phone Tuesday that the county is in good financial shape and can afford to float the bonds. She said the commissioners were told years ago the county would have to finance part of the runway project.

"That's all been checked out," Nipps said. "We knew that it was going to come."

She also said federal and state dollars are paying for 95 percent of the project, which she called a good deal for the county.

The Federal Aviation Administration has said it would contribute $47 million for the project's construction, the state has agreed to pay $10.6 million and the county's share is $2.6 million, not including interest.

The runway is planned to extend over U.S. 11. The project will lengthen the runway from 5,461 feet to 7,000 feet and add 1,000-foot safety areas at each end of the runway. The extension is expected to be completed in December 2007.

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