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Capital improvement requests increase in Washington County

February 18, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

Over the next few weeks, the Washington County Commissioners will start reviewing budget requests from county departments for its capital improvement plan.

The six-year capital improvement plan (CIP) schedules and funds future projects such as roads, bridges, parks and school improvements. It is revised every year and is separate from the county's yearly budget.

Washington County Budget and Finance Director Debra S. Murray told the commissioners Tuesday that CIP requests for fiscal years 2009 to 2014 from all departments, including the Board of Education, total more than $800 million this year.

That amount is almost $125 million more than was requested last year.

County Commissioners President John F. Barr said it will have to be cut.

"There is no question," Barr said. "Even if the economy turns around, it's just not possible."

More than $100 million eventually was shaved from last year's CIP requests, which ended up totaling $540,980,302.

Barr said similar cuts to most or all departmental requests will have to be made this year.

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"We just don't have that kind of money," Barr said.

To help prioritize the yearly deluge of CIP requests, Murray introduced a ranking system last year that divided requests into four categories - vital, essential, necessary and discretionary.

Those categories have been expanded and reorganized this year to "essential," "desirable," acceptable," "deferrable" and "hold."

Projects are categorized and then ranked within their category based on additional criteria.

And topping the list in this year's CIP update?

A $430,000 upgrade to a pump station on College Road.

It is immediately followed on the list by more than $72 million in improvements to four of the county's wastewater treatment plants - Winebrenner, Conococheague, Smithsburg and Antietam.

The expansion of the U.S. 40 and Edgewood Drive intersection, upgrades to the county's emergency communications system, and the renovation and expansion of the Washington County Free Library's Central branch all made the "essential" category.

Expansion of the county's detention center and a new high school in the eastern portion of the county fell under "deferrable."

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