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Panel restores state funds for dam repair

April 08, 2010|By ERIN JULIUS

ANNAPOLIS -- A $550,000 grant to repair the dam at Devil's Backbone Park was restored to the state's capital budget bill Thursday evening during a conference committee meeting of five senators and five delegates.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, was a member of the conference committee.

In a conference committee, representatives from the House of Delegates and state Senate work out differences between each chamber's version of a bill. In this case, the committee addressed the capital budget bill.

Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, served as an advisor to the committee.

Munson worked with the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee in March to secure in the budget bill a $550,000 matching grant to money provided by the Washington County Commissioners for dam repairs. The House of Delegates cut that funding in its version of the budget bill.

Munson pleaded for the money during the conference committee meeting Thursday evening.

He described the park --"in a lovely part of the county" --and told his colleagues the dam is in bad shape.

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Should it fail, there would be an eight- or nine-foot wall of water, he said.

"It would flow down through historic areas of Washington County. It would destroy property and could destroy life," Munson said.

The commissioners have promised him that, should they receive the funding, the project would begin by September, Munson told his colleagues.

Del. Adrienne A. Jones, D-Baltimore County, chair of the House side at the conference committee, agreed to restore the funding to the budget bill.

The funding is now all but secure, Munson said after the Thursday evening meeting.

While the capital budget bill will go before both chambers again for a final vote, no one will offer changes to what the conferees agreed upon, he said.

"They obviously understand this was in the best interests of Washington County," Munson said.

The conference committee meets again today to iron out other differences before the budget bill is sent back to the full chambers.

In February, the county received a notice of violation from the Maryland Department of the Environment about the dam, Washington County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth III has said.

The order mandated that, within 60 days, the county hire an engineer to design repairs for the dam and, 60 days after that, a design must be completed and submitted to MDE, Kroboth said.

To fund the approximately $1.2 million project on its own, the county would have to look at possibly postponing other capital projects or even dip into operational funds, Kroboth said.

While the dam repairs had been scheduled for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, the mandate to start earlier "presented a huge hardship for us at the county level," he said.

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