Lexington Park, MD – Back on Dec. 11, the St. Mary’s County Commissioners held a public, joint meeting with the Southern Maryland Legislative Delegation. The purpose of this meeting is to annually address the various requests and proposals from county commissioners and from community organizations. Following what was considered a successful meeting, one might wonder how a request for $30 million in bonding authority from the commissioners went without a mention at that time.

District 29A Delegate Matt Morgan disclosed to the public that on Jan. 4, the delegation received an email containing an 11-page proposal from the St. Mary’s County Commissioners. The proposal outlined 29 different “projects” that will require bonding authority in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020.

Bonding authority is the act of securing money to enhance public programs, which in Maryland is obtained through the approval of the General Assembly. However, even though a detailed list of anticipated projects is outlined for FY2020, it is up to the county commissioners’ discretion as to if the money gets spent in the outlined manner once it is granted. 

While this request for bonding authority came very late in the game (with the legislative session starting this week), the biggest concern should be drawn from the lack of public input on the requested amount. The motion to ask for the authority came from a budget session held at the final commissioners’ meeting of 2018. There was no opportunity for public comments to be made or for concerned citizens to cast their opinions. However, when asked about if there was a definite lack of transparency from the commissioners, Delegate Morgan said that it just likely boiled down to poor timing, saying that the commissioners “obviously weren’t trying to do anything malicious.”

Nonetheless, the motion out of the budget session passed on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Mike Hewitt [R-District 2] being the only vote against the request. When asked why he voted against his colleagues, Hewitt told theBaynet.com that he didn’t think that it was necessary, calling it poor fiscal planning.

“[The] county has projects that have bonding authority and still haven’t been started, ALS building, new animal shelter, FDR phase 3 to name a few,” Hewitt said. “We should get some of these off the drawing board before we ask for authority for projects we won’t get to for several years. What’s worse is we’ve borrowed money and are paying interest on $10 million for phase 3 of FDR and the project was pushed back 2 years due to design issues with storm water management.”

The St. Mary’s County Commissioners’ have their first meeting of 2019 tentatively scheduled for Jan. 8.