Parks projects worth more than $550,000 in Carroll's towns could likely fall victim to the state's worsening budget woes.
The General Assembly is expected to use more than $31 million of Program Open Space money to help patch a $109 million deficit in this year's budget, municipal leaders learned yesterday during a joint meeting in Annapolis of the House Appropriations and Senate Budget and Taxation committees.
The hit will be the second taken by the Open Space fund this year, and it threatens at least six new projects in Carroll as well as several already under way. Earlier this year, Program Open Space financing was cut by $33 million.
Only $8.6 million in Open Space financing has been approved for the budget year beginning July 1, one of the lowest levels of financing in the program's 22-year history.
While Carroll County receives relatively little of the total amount of Open Space money spent in the state, several projects here are expected to be either canceled or put in jeopardy.
The largest, the 27-acre Greenway Gardens & Arboretum off East Nicodemus Road in Westminster, is especially threatened. Although the state Department of NaturalResources -- which administers Open Space funding -- notified Greenway owner Dottie deWilde of its intent to purchase the property, deWilde recently put the parcel up for sale. Environmentalists are concerned that the agriculturally zoned tract -- which would have been part of the 1,300-acre Morgan Run Environmental Area -- could be prime development land.
Other projects in Westminster, Manchester, Mount Airy and Sykesville also could lose money.
In Sykesville, a tot lot in Lexington Run and the refurbishing of Burkett Park both were paid for by the town after the Natural Resources Department told the town it would be reimbursed. The projects cost $16,000 -- 5 cents on the town tax rate -- and, so far, the state has not sent the town any money.
Under the latest state budget proposal, it is possible the townwill not be reimbursed.
"If that's the case, then we've been robbed," said Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. "I can't believe the state government would operate like this. They gave us their commitment,we've spent the money, and now they do this? It's quite a way to runa government."
Many Maryland municipal and environmental officials agree.
"The revocation of promised funds this late in the fiscalyear will be devastating to the county and municipal governments whoproceeded with their park acquisition and development programs in good faith," wrote Michelle Clark, the executive director of the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association Inc.
The budget proposal discussed during yesterday's legislative meetings would not only affect projects in the works during this budget year but also would threaten projects slated for the upcoming year.
Some of those projects, according to the Maryland Municipal League, include:
* The Bishop/Center Street Park in Westminster, $11,250.
* The Westminster Municipal Park Shelter, $15,000.
* The development of King Park in Westminster, $15,000.
* The Westminster Tot Lot, $11,250.
* The Mount Airy Village Gate Tennis Courts, $22,500.
* The acquisition of property for Pine Valley Park in Manchester, $16,223.