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New Items Added To St. Mary's Budget Mix
Leonardtown, MD - 5/15/2012
By Dick Myers
Two St. Mary’s County Commissioners have added several new items to their ongoing budget deliberations. At the first of two scheduled budget work sessions on Monday leading up to a budget decision later this month, Commissioner Daniel Morris (R: 2nd) brought up funding for the Hollywood Volunteer Rescue Squad and Commissioner Todd Morgan (R: 4th) suggested safety improvements to Wildewood Parkway and sidewalks along Buck HewittRoad.
Morris said a clerical error had cheated the Hollywood VRS out of almost $400,000 of rescue squad tax money. He said one of the company’s ambulances blew a head gasket while transporting a patient and another went down with electrical problems.
Morris asked the commissioners to allocate $200,000 for a new ambulance for the rescue squad to compensate them for their lost revenue. He said Hollywood VRS, because of its location, winds up be the first responder for calls outside its first-due area. He called it a life or death decision.
County Chief Finance Officer Elaine Kramer said that monies were allocated based on calls within each rescue squad’s taxing district. Director of Public Safety and Information Technology Bob Kelly said the tax districts and the first response areas are not always the same.
Kramer noted that the county had a million-dollar revolving loan fund that Hollywood could tap for an ambulance. She also noted that the squad could ask for a rescue squad tax increase.
Commissioner Lawrence Jarboe (R: 3rd) noted that other rescue squads were in the same situation, such as Mechanicsville responding to calls in Hughesville. He said providing direct funding for a Hollywood ambulance could open the door for similar requests from other departments.
Morgan’s two requests were based on two recent public meetings at which residents supported safety improvements to Wildewood Parkway and supported sidewalks along Buck Hewitt Road to create a walking loop around Lexington Park and Great Mills.
Director of Public Works and Transportation George Erichsen estimates the cost of a sidewalk on the north side of Buck Hewitt Road to be $916 thousand and a cost of $85,000 for speed humps on Wildewood Parkway. The humps would be wider and shorter than bumps but would still slow traffic.
Jarboe asked Morgan if he would be willing to trade funding for those two projects for a one-year delay in FDR Boulevard’s timetable. Morgan answered with an emphatic “No!” Jarboe said, “These big projects are going to come back to bite us.” But Morgan responded, “I am unwavering in my support of FDR Boulevard.”
In the end the commissioners delayed a decision on all three projects until next week. They did, however, make a tentative decision on the request from the farming community to allocation $5 million for agricultural preservation. Morgan asked for the funding saying it would help pay for protection of Pax River from encroachment.
But after some discussion it was unanimously decided that part of the $7.5 million previously set aside for mitigation of any future Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) decisions could be used for farmland preservation in the Mattapany Rural Legacy area south of the base.
The commissioners did also go along with additional funding requested by the Charles County Commissioners for facility improvements and operations at the Tri-County Animal Shelter in Hughesville.
The commissioners did not discuss at the work session any of the requests for restoration of funding for non-county, non-profit agencies.
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