Cumberland Times-News

May 9, 2013

Commission reviews capital improvement plan

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Allegany County commissioners listened to an update on the county’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan by Adam Patterson, a county engineer. A large part of the discussion concerned school funding, especially funding for a new Allegany High School.

Commissioners have dedicated $9.2 million toward the high school project. They added an extra million to reach that total after a request from the board of education.

Board of education contributions bring the local share of the project to $12.2 million.

The state of Maryland will provide the rest of the funding.

The total cost of the Allegany project is projected to be $41.4 million, with $27.93 million to be covered by the state.

County Finance Director Jason Bennett said the only new debt being added to the county’s capital plans at the moment is the money for the high school.

Bennett cautioned, though, that the move will increase the county’s  debt load significantly in 2015. “We need to watch what we’re doing from this point out,” he said, referring to 2015.

The school will be designed to seat 719 students, with some changes in that number possible.

Bennett was happy with the county’s debt situation.

“We’ve moved underneath our goal,” Bennett said.

The county has been working to reduce the annual county debt payments to less than $4 million a year.

Among the other school projects in the proposed capital plan are several roof replacement projects, including at Washington Middle, Braddock Middle and at Mount Savage.

Among other funding issues discussed was the need for a long-term plan to fund repair of county roads.

State money for such work has dried up, said Paul Kahl, director of public works. County officials have said that in 2007, the county share of the highway user revenue was $4.8 million; in 2008, $4.6 million.

Part of the problem has been constant raids on the state’s transportation fund for other purposes.

Highway user revenue from the state is expected to be only a few hundred thousand, about one-tenth of what the county received only a few years ago, Bennett said. There are about 550 miles of county-maintained roads.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.