County Council to vote on capital plan March 17

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A first public test of the new county executive’s ideas and leadership, and the best opportunity thus far to evaluate how far the County Council is willing to follow him, occurred Tuesday at a public hearing on Wicomico’s five-year capital spending plan.

The legislative meeting, and a work session that followed, centered plans to either replace or renovate West Salisbury Elementary School. The school board and its administrators want the school torn down and built anew. County Executive Bob Culver wants assurances that a new school is truly the ideal solution, given state and local revenue challenges that are triggering funding cuts across Maryland.

Also generating some public excitement is Culver’s suggestion to look again at the final phase of the Bennett Middle School replacement plan. Like the West Salisbury replacement, the Bennett plan has long been decided by the Board of Education; Culver’s final-hour assertions surprised many and served notice that changes were possible to any thought-to-be-final plan.

Receiving almost no public feedback, thus far, are Culver’s decision to scrap the final phase of the Westside Collector Road and shelf the gasification plant proposed for the Brick Kiln Landfill in west Salisbury.

Other items are expected to be part of the public dialogue, including spending plans to renovate the stadium where the Shorebirds play baseball, the Youth & Civic Center, the historic County Courthouse and build a new public park in the West Side Metro Core.

Here’s a look at some of the items in the Capital Spending Plan:

State’s Attorney Building Purchase.

An existing project from FY15 CIF: total cost $3.96 million.

The fiscal year 2014 operating budget approved a course of action that would lead to the States Attorney’s office spaces moving from their location within the Circuit Court complex to a leased facility. The new facility was occupied in February 2014. The contract with the lessor is for 15 years with a purchase option beginning with the 13th month of occupancy through the 36th month of occupancy at a purchase price of $3.93 million. Purchasing the building will avoid payments of monthly rent of $24,781.25 which is escalated by 2 percent each year.

The total savings is approximately $885,000 and the County will own the building rather than having to continue to lease space in perpetuity.

 

Elections Voter Registrations System Upgrade.

An existing project from FY13 CIF: $198,236 was appropriated in FY13.

State legislation passed in 2007 requires all elections to have a “voter-verifiable paper record.” The preliminary estimate from the State for Wicomico County was $198,236. When the State directs contribution for this program, funding will come from this project account.

 

Circuit Court Complex Renovation.

An existing project from FY13 CIP: total cost $1.75 million.

Previously, $200,000 in funding was appropriated in FY14 for the engineering study plus $600,000 for phase one of remodeling and renovation of Circuit Court Building and Old Courthouse. $950,000 was appropriated in FY15. This will be phase two of remodeling and renovation of Circuit Court Building.

The FY14 estimate of $850,000 was increased in FY15 by $100,000 to reflect the need to modernize the elevator in the new courthouse to enable compliance with State and Federal mandates to maintain separation of male-female and adult-youth defendants.

Remodeling and renovation is required to expand the court facilities to accommodate an additional judge with related staff. This is a single project to be phased over multiple years.

The Old Courthouse must be evaluated for restoration and preservation. This engineering work will be performed with the study work on the Circuit Court Building. There are no changes to this plan in FY16 submission.

 

Old Courthouse Historic Structure Preservation.

An existing, but unfunded, project from FY15 with revised total cost in FY16 – FY15 cost estimate was $860,000. FY16 CIP proposes $750,000 being phased over FY16 for $250,000, FY 17 for $250,000 and FY18 for $250,000.

The Old Courthouse building is a County landmark. Built in 1878, it is considered a historical building by the State of Maryland and is in the local Downtown Historical District. The structure has been deteriorating for many years and there is a need for replacement of the roof and guttering system, reinforcement of the upper floor structure and bell tower, repair of the masonry, historic rehabilitation of the window and repainting of the exterior surfaces.

The County has engaged an engineering specialist to assess the structure and provide recommendations on how to proceed to deal with the needed repairs. The project includes roofing and gutter replacement structural reinforcement of clock tower, fascia and other wood replacement, restoration of doors and windows, painting of all exterior wood surfaces, masonry repairs and limited brick replacement and point tucking as needed.

 

Morris Mill Dam Rehabilitation.

An existing project from FY13 CIP: $450,000 was appropriated in FY13 to rehabilitate the dam, spillway and pipes of the Morris Mill Dam to reduce the possibility of the dam breaching resulting in lengthy road closures.

The firm of Charles P. Johnson Associates has been engaged to study the dam and provide engineering designs to perform required work. The FY15 revised request increases the total cost by $500,000 to $950,000.

The FY16 CIP increases this request again by $500,000 bringing the total project cost to $1.45 million. The cost growth is the result of more extensive scope of required work than was initially envisioned as well as the need to acquire land to enable the project to be completed.

 

Johnson Road Enhancements.

An existing project from FY13 CIP: In FY14, the total cost estimate increased to $950,000 from $914,000. The FY15 CIP requested the proposed land acquisition of $300,000 be shifted from FYI 8 to FY19 and the construction cost of $600,000 is shifted beyond the CIP planning horizon.

This leaves $50,000 appropriated in FY13 for study and design work. The FY16 CIP revises the funding schedule to place both the land acquisition and construction funding to FY19.

The project, located between Mallard Landing Retirement Village and the Route 13 Bypass, will eliminate flooding, improve geometric realignment and upgrade this road to standards for a major collector.

 

Westside Collector Phase 3.

An existing project from FY15 CIP: total request of $1.8 million.

This is the final phase to complete the County’s inter-loop which links College Avenue, Beaglin Park Drive, Zion Road, Naylor Mill Road and Crooked Oak Lane. Phase 3 is the final link between Levin Dashiell Road and Crooked Oak Lane. This is new construction which is eligible by Charter for funding from debt issuance.

This project was removed from the final bond resolution in December 2014. It is deferred indefInitely.

 

Morris Mill Road Improvements.

New in FY16 CIF:  total estimated cost of $900,000 to be funded in FY20.

The portion of Morris Mill Road between Mill Drive and South Division Street is in need of improvements. Road widening and an open ditch drainage system would be installed to direct runoff from the roadway to Morris Pond.

Acquisition of property for a stormwater management facility is needed. These enhancements will make Morris Mill Road a safer, more comfortable and more uniform rural major collector road.

 

Whitehaven Ferry Bulkhead Replacement.

New in FY16 CIP: total estimated cost of $250,000.

The Whitehaven Ferry provides a vital transportation alternative which allows commuters to save time, avoid congestion and reduce fuel consumption. To sustain ferry operations, the ferry landing bulkhead needs to be replaced.

This work will be performed while the ferry is undergoing bi-annual overhaul scheduled for FY16.

 

Waste to Energy Gasification Plant.

Consideration of the waste to energy gasification plant proposed in the 2015 CIP has been removed from consideration for the 2016-2020 planning cycle.

Arthur W. Perdue Stadium Modernization.

An existing project from FY14 CIF: estimated total cost of $320,000.

The scope, cost and proposed funding has changed substantially from the FY14 CIP submission; revised total cost is $4.37 million with an additional $361,900 from the franchisor for portable stadium tables, chairs and concessions equipment and $200,000 for furnishings for clubhouses.

This project involves restoration of the 19-year-old stadium and playing field, and enhancing spectator amenities to keep the Shorebirds viable in the marketplace. These projects are a direct result of an “economic analysis” prepared by Crossroads Consultants which was funded equally by the Maiyland Stadium Authority and Wicomico County with a contribution from the Delmarva Shorebirds.

The projected cost is $4.37 million and is broken down as follows: Club Houses, batting cages, Home team tunnel: $120,000; structural restoration: $1.9 million; spectator seating improvements: $834,500; construction of a 360 degree spectator circulation deck: $441,000; fan amenities, façade and video board: $1.074.

The County will seek one-half the funding ($2.125 million) from the state over two years (FY16-FY17), in addition to the Seventh Inning Stretch LLC, owners of the Delmarva Shorebirds franchise $200,000 contribution.

The County will fund the balance ($2.125 million) over two years. These improvements will assure that the County retains a minor league baseball franchise for 20 years in a very competitive marketplace, provide the franchise with a functional, profitable and energy efficient venue and protect the economic activity.

The County administers an agreement with the Shorebirds which obligates the County for the replacement of mechanical systems and the building’s shell including the roof. The team franchiser is responsible for baseball operations, maintenance, repairs and operational costs.

The Concession Agreement between the County and Seventh Inning Stretch expires in 2015. Negotiations to renew the agreement are under way and discussions have led to these proposed projects.

West Metro Core Park Development.

An existing project from FY13 CIP planned for FY15-FY16: total project cost revised in FY15 to $2.8 million with finding in FY17-FY18.

Funding from Program Open Space is anticipated in FY19-FY20. The FY16 CIP reflects the change.

In 2009, the County acquired 100 acres with State Program Open Space funds to serve the west metro core area as a community park. The Department proposes to develop this site in FY 2019-2020. A site plan will be developed after seeking public input.

Facilities to be considered include, but are not limited to, baseball, softball, and soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts, picnic areas, walking/jogging trails, a children’s playground and support buildings.

This community park will serve the more than 14,000 residents of the west side of Salisbury who are currently lacking a general use park facility.

To the extent that it is available, Program Open Space funding will be requested to develop the site. The project cost to develop the park is estimated to be $2.8 million. The actual project cost estimate will be determined after community input is sought and a final design completed.

Youth & Civic Center Upgrades.

An existing project from FY15 CIF: total cost estimate of $7 million. The FY16 CIP proposes $3.4 million in existing funding and removing the remaining scope of work from the current planning cycle. $1 million from County and $1 million being requested from State grant, removing the remaining from the CIP schedule. $2.4 million from a prior project, for Youth & Civic Center Restoration will fund portions of the upgrades and $1 million in funding from the State has been approved.

The anticipated scope of the project involves the replacement of the Normandy Arena’s seating cost: $2.5 million and cosmetic upgrades to the interior and exterior of the building to render the venue more competitive in the marketplace protecting the YCC’s current annual economic impact of $14.5 million and tax yields of $1 million to the State and $313,000 to the County. The YCC was constructed in 1980.

Modernization and expansion of the 33-year-old venue will maintain and grow market share, increase revenues and increase economic and fiscal impacts which benefit local and state revenue.

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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