Funds freed for drunken-drivers' jail Balto. Co. budget woes had delayed 100-inmate facility.

February 14, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

The opening of a 100-inmate jail designed for drunken drivers in Baltimore County, delayed because of budget problems, could come this fall now that the project has been freed from a list of frozen capital budget projects.

Renovations on the building, on the grounds of Rosewood Hospital Center in Owings Mills, could begin by April 1, county Public Works Director Gene L. Neff said. Originally scheduled to open last month, the facility is expected to help ease crowding in the county detention center in Towson.

The delay was one of a series of capital budget adjustments that County Executive Roger B. Hayden's administration was forced to make in the face of huge state budget cuts and reductions in tax revenues due to the recession.

A total of $6 million worth of capital projects have been delayed because of the county's money problems. The prison for those caught driving while intoxicated (DWI) is the only one for which money has been released so far, county Administrative Officer Merreen E. Kelly said.

A shortage of cash, both for long-range projects and for the daily operation of county government, has forced the county to plan a bond sale nine months earlier than expected. The County Council is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to approve the bond sale.

The county already is out of Metropolitan District water and sewer bond money that pays for utility improvements. It also would run out of cash to operate the government by late spring if new bonds are not sold, said Thomas W. Shay Jr., investment supervisor for the county Finance Department.

Juggling other funds has enabled projects to go on for now, Mr. Shay said. He said that because of the mild winter and eager contractors with little other work, projects have progressed faster than scheduled, forcing money to be spent ahead of schedule.

If the council approves, the county expects to sell about $65 million in Metropolitan District bonds and $60 million in consolidated public improvement bonds, probably in April. Although bond money is not used for government operating expenses, each summer when property tax revenues come in, that cash is used to pay capital debts temporarily. Later, when bonds are sold, the proceeds reimburse the operating budget, Finance Director James R. Gibson Jr. said.

Mr. Hayden has said he was hoping to wait until next January to sell any more bonds, to save money on interest in next year's budget. But the $41 million cut in state aid has forced Mr. Hayden's hand. Mr. Gibson said the interest costs may be offset by short-term investment of the sale proceeds.

The executive also has told the county Planning Board to hold total bond issues -- up for voter approval on November ballot -- to no more than $100 million, half the amount put before voters in 1990.

Mr. Hayden earlier said he would spend no more than $148 million of the $197 million worth of authorizations for capital projects that voters approved in 1990.

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