Wish list for projects on agenda $100.4 million worth of proposals coming to planning board

Panel likely to slash 50%

Composting plant would account for $33 million

October 03, 1995|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,SUN STAFF

Schools, parks, roads, libraries and more schools are on the Planning Commission agenda today as it begins reviewing capital budget proposals stretching into the next century. The proposals from county departments anuly 1.

The current year's capital budget is $51.3 million, and county Budget Director Steven D. Powell has said that next year's budget cannot be much higher. County revenues are expected to increase about 4 percent this year.

"The last several years, we haven't had any money to play with," Planning Commission Chairman Dennis P. Bowman said yesterday.

A single project put the proposals over the $100 million mark -- a $33 million composting plant to dispose of municipal solid waste and sewage sludge.

County commissioners are considering building the plant as an alternative to opening another landfill and have included it in the proposals even though they have not voted on the issue, said capital budget analyst Ted Zaleski.

Mr. Bowman said the plant probably would be paid for through revenue bonds, meaning county officials hope the plant would be self-supporting.

County department and agency directors will present their capital budget requests to the seven-member Planning Commission today, tomorrow and Friday. The commission will review the proposals in the next two months and pare them down before submitting a budget to the county commissioners in December.

County commissioners have the final vote on which projects are approved.

Education officials have asked for about $17 million for new schools, including two elementary schools to be built in fiscal 1997 to help ease crowding in Eldersburg and Westminster. The total request for education projects is $34.4 million, 34 percent of all requests.

Parents and schools officials have been clamoring for new schools in the county's highest growth areas -- Eldersburg, Hampstead and Westminster -- for several years. Officials say the county needs eight new schools in the next six years to accommodate a student population expected to grow to 28,000 by 2000, an increase of 4,100.

County commissioners voted in May to increase the piggyback income tax to 58 percent from 50 percent for the next six years to help pay for school construction.

That will help, Mr. Bowman said, "but it's still going to be tight."

School officials have asked that the county spend $7.7 million in the next fiscal year to build an elementary school in the Eldersburg area. County officials have asked the state to pay about half the cost but haven't received an answer, Mr. Bowman said.

Also next year, school officials want to build an $8.2 million elementary school in Westminster and spend $519,500 for design and engineering work on a new Manchester elementary and $878,000 for design and engineering on a new Westminster high school.

Population growth also affects other services, including:

* Libraries. Public library officials have asked to enlarge the Eldersburg branch, a $1.4 million project to be completed in two phases beginning next year and finishing in fiscal year 1999.

"The Eldersburg branch has reached the point where citizens can't be served adequately," said Ann Wisner, library public information specialist.

In fiscal 1998, library officials propose expanding the Westminster branch at a cost of $2.3 million.

* Recreation. The top priority is to build a larger gymnasium and add a 2,000-square-foot activity room at each new elementary school, said Richard J. Soisson, director of recreation and parks.

The school-recreation centers would provide more space for adult recreation, senior citizen, day-care and other programs, he said.

The Planning Commission approved this year spending $400,000 build a larger gym at Elmer Wolfe Elementary during its renovation. Money for an activity room was not included.

Recreation officials have asked for $706,650 to build a school-recreation center at the new Eldersburg elementary school in the next fiscal year and the same amount in fiscal 1998 for a center in the new Manchester elementary, Mr. Soisson said.

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