St. Mary’s County Chief Financial Officer Elaine Kramer (l) and Deputy Finance Director Jeannett Cudmore present budget issues to the commissioners

Leonardtown, MD — Two controversial decisions by the former St. Mary’s County Commissioners will be revisited by the new board. On Monday Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R- 2nd District) asked the board to re-look at the decisions to jettison an expanded jail in favor of renovating the existing facility, and shelving a new Leonardtown Library and instead renovating it as well. Hewitt also asked the new board to seriously consider the request in a petition with more than 3,000 names to accelerate plans for a new Garvey Senior Center on the St. Mary’s County Government Center grounds.

The commissioners in 2013 shelved a jail expansion project, and considerable state funding attached to it, after the bid came in $7 million over the $16.2 million budget. The decision to renovate, to the tune of $9 million was criticized by the sheriff, members of his citizen’s advisory committee and the planning commission as being short-sighted.

That same year the former commissioners  shelved plans for a new library, which had been proposed for several locations, including the Hayden Farm or in downtown Leonardtown. Instead, they opted for a $1.9 million renovation. They have budgeted $709,800 in the current fiscal year for the project.

Hewitt said he had heard concerns about the two decisions while campaigning.
Regarding the library, Hewitt said, “It seems to be a disservice to the community to take the library down and operate out of a mobile unit,” during the proposed renovation.

Hewitt observed the broader issue was the need for an overall “space needs study” for county government. Director of Public Works and Transportation George Erichsen told Hewitt that there were existing studies of the needs for the library system, the jail and the senior centers. He said he would provide all of those studies to the commissioners for their deliberation.

Hewitt suggested, and the other commissioners agreed, to bring the issue back to the table when they begin in earnest in January to go over the Fiscal Year 2016 capital and operating budgets. The county’s Capital Improvement Plan Group is expected to present their recommendations to the commissioners by Jan. 5.
Erichsen said that some monies have been expended on the jail renovation and planning is under way for the library renovation.

The idea to hold in abeyance any expenditure of the renovation projects and revisit the original decisions was raised by Hewitt during a preliminary budget work session on Monday, their last before next year.

Contact Dick Myers at news@thebaynet,com