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'No' to C&O bond bill request

February 09, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • A lift bridge is shown over the C&O Canal National Historical Park in Williamsport. Washington County's state lawmakers Wednesday rejected a request to seek state money for C&O Canal National Historical Park improvements.
Herald-Mail file photo

ANNAPOLIS — Expressing a distaste for borrowing in tight fiscal times, Washington County's state lawmakers Wednesday rejected a request to seek state money for C&O Canal National Historical Park improvements.

The park had asked for $215,000 in a state bond bill to work on Lock 44 and the Western Maryland Railroad lift bridge in Williamsport.

No one in the Washington County delegation favored the idea during a meeting Wednesday, so the proposal died.

Each year, Maryland's capital budget includes $15 million for bond bills, the state's version of earmarks — individual legislators' funding requests for projects in their districts.

Washington County's Republicans said lawmakers shouldn't try to fund pet projects while the state is having financial trouble.

Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, suggested seeking money from the state's Transportation Trust Fund instead.

Noting that bond bills are loans with interest, Parrott said: "I don't think it's responsible for us just to continue to take loans upon loans."

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, agreed, saying there's "grave concern" about Maryland's debt.

"These are the kind of things that, while they're not big amounts, sometimes they add up, and we have to show some leadership here," he said.

Del. Michael J. Hough, R-Frederick/Washington, and Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said they also wouldn't support a bond bill.

Del. John P. Donoghue, the only Democrat present at the delegation meeting, didn't comment.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, the delegation chairman, said he'll tell Kevin Brandt, the park superintendent, and Thomas B. Riford, the president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, that the request might be reconsidered in the future.

Told later that the delegation didn't support the bond-bill request, Brandt, who wasn't at the meeting, said he suspected that might happen.

He said the lock and lift-bridge improvements are part of a plan that will include new retro-style passenger boats in the canal.

Brandt said restoring Lock 44 probably will cost $200,000 to $225,000.

The park has been promised a little more than $100,000 from the Maryland Transportation Enhancement Program, Brandt said.

The lock, which is about 15 feet wide and 93 feet long, needs grout injections to keep water from flowing through, he said.

The Western Maryland Railroad built the lift bridge in 1923 to help get coal to the local power plant, The Herald-Mail reported in 2007, quoting the National Park Service.

At the time, the park service said the bridge is about 79 feet end to end and 30 feet high, according to preliminary drawings. The part that lifts is about 41 feet long.

Brandt said a portion of the bond-bill money would have helped pay for the design of the lift-bridge project.

The project's overall cost will be around $1.5 million, about half of which the park is getting from the Transportation Enhancement Program, he said.

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