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County to give $560K to municipalities for roads

May 12, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners stood up for the county's municipalities Tuesday, shooting down a staff recommendation that would deny the municipalities any benefit from the $2.3 million in federal stimulus funds allocated for local roads projects.

County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth recommended that the commissioners not distribute any additional roads money to the municipalities because the county took a greater hit than the municipalities when it came to state funding cuts for next fiscal year.

Instead, the commissioners voted 3-1 to distribute about $560,000 among the City of Hagerstown and the county's eight incorporated towns using an established formula based on the number of vehicle registrations and the miles of roadway in each jurisdiction.

Commissioner William J. Wivell voted against that motion, saying he didn't want to commit to funding for the municipalities before the county received its stimulus funds and without knowing details about how the distribution would affect the county budget.

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Commissioners President John F. Barr was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

The money to be distributed to the municipalities is not the actual federal stimulus funding. The federal funds, authorized under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, can only be used on projects that meet strict federal requirements related to design, environmental impact and other issues. To save the towns from the burden of complying with all the regulations, the county decided in March to spend the $2.3 million in stimulus funds on county projects and allocate county money to the towns equal to the amount of the stimulus funds they would have received under an established funding formula.

Since that decision, however, the state announced drastic cuts in the distribution of highway user revenue, the vehicle-related taxes and titling fees that are passed down to counties and municipalities for road maintenance. The cut was applied unevenly, reducing the highway user fund distribution to counties by a greater percentage than the distribution to municipalities, Kroboth said.

Washington County was allocated only $3.6 million in highway user revenues for fiscal year 2010, less than half of the $7.9 million it requested, budget documents show.

As a result of that cut, the county had to push back or cut several capital projects, including $1 million worth of road resurfacing projects, Kroboth said.

Not distributing the $560,000 to the municipalities would allow the county to restore some of the resurfacing work that was cut, he said.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said it would be unfair to deny Hagerstown and the county's towns a share of funding that was intended to trickle down throughout the county.

The proposed distributions are a small loss to the county, but would be more significant to the municipalities, Aleshire said.

"That number might be one-twentieth or one-thirtieth of their funding, while to us it's, you know, one two-thousandth," he said.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he supported distributing the funds to the municipalities because they would still be used to improve transportation in the county.

The funds will be limited to use for capital improvements and will have to be spent within 12 months, Kroboth said. The municipalities must spend their own money first, then submit invoices for reimbursement, and they will have to provide a report at the end of the project on how the funds were used, he said.

Roads money to be distributed to municipalities:



City of Hagerstown: $404,342

Clear Spring: $6,204

Keedysville: $12,688

Boonsboro: $37,816

Funkstown: $10,795

Hancock: $24,305

Sharpsburg: $10,516

Smithsburg: $30,056

Williamsport: $25,658

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