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School projects are bulk of proposed Washington Co. capital budget

February 12, 2013|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — School construction will make up the bulk of the $39.6 million Washington County would spend in the 2014 fiscal year under a proposed 10-year capital improvement plan reviewed Tuesday by the Board of County Commissioners.

For the 10-year plan the county received requests totaling more than $793 million, which was pared down by the Capital Improvement Plan Committee to $436.7 million over the life of the plan, said Debra Murray, the director of Budget and Finance.

In the fiscal year beginning July 1, the county would spend $10.9 million on the ongoing replacement of Bester Elementary School and begin phase one of spending on a West City Elementary School with $748,000, a figure that would rise to $8 million in 2015, according to the plan. Another $3.5 million would go toward capital maintenance for the school system, it said.

The plan runs through 2023 and, during that time, a number of other school projects would get underway, including replacement of Sharpsburg Elementary, an addition to Fountaindale Elementary, modernization of Boonsboro High School and a planned new school, East City High School in Hagerstown, the plan said.

Total projects planned for the Board of Education would exceed $230 million, according to the plan.

The 10-year plan includes more than 30 road improvement projects costing more than $166 million, but actual spending in 2014 is projected at $10.2 million. That includes $3.5 million for pavement maintenance and restoration; $1.3 million for phase two of the Professional Court extension and more than $1.6 million toward the extension of Yale Drive near the Mount Aetna Technology Park.

Of the $4.7 million for water quality work in 2014, $2.2 million would go to improvements to the Smithsburg Wastewater Treatment plant and $1.7 million for the Winebrenner Wastewater Treatment Plant, according to the report.

The plan recommends $3.9 million be spent on general government in 2014, with more than $2 million set aside for work on the first and second floors of the County Administration Building.

Funding for the 2014 projects would include $12 million in tax supported bonds, another $4.2 million in other bond funding, $9.1 million in state grants, $5 million from the county general fund capital reserve and about $3.9 million in federal grants.

The county has several big ticket projects that would carry past the 10 years detailed in the proposal, Murray told the commissioners.

Those include approximately $60 million apiece for East City High and Boonsboro High; renovations to the county Detention Center in 2021 and possible expansions in 2025 and 2027; and a county fire and rescue training center now slated for 2025.

Assuming annual borrowing of $12 million in bonds, Murray told the commissioners there could be funding shortfalls of $9 million to $16 million amounting to $119 million from 2020 to 2029.

That could require some projects being modified or pushed back, or additional revenues be found to make up the shortfalls, she said.

Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore was present at the meeting and noted that renovations to the detention center have already been pushed back from 2016 to 2021 and expansion of the center in the future would depend, in part, on whether the county can institute a day reporting center program to reduce the prisoner population in the future. Similar to a program in Franklin County (Pa.), a day reporting center would test, treat and provide counseling and training for nonviolent offenders, many of whom have substance abuse problems.

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