County Shuffles 10-Year Capital Project List

SNOW
HILL – With $388 million worth of projects listed in Worcester County’s 10-year
capital improvement plan, the County Commissioners decided to push back some
items to follow a more realistic timeline.

“You
have Pocomoke and Snow Hill [high schools] lined up in the same year. That’s
not going to happen,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley.

Commissioner
Judy Boggs, agreed, saying, “Not only is it physically doing the schools, it’s
how much can we afford to pay and we can’t afford to do ‘em all in the
timeline.”

The
plan covers the next 10 years and includes everything from schools to computer
upgrades to landfill construction.

“Just
because a project is in this plan does not constitute approval,” said Gerry
Mason, Worcester County chief administrative officer. “Each project will stand
on its own merit.”

While
he agreed that’s true, Shockley said the timeline should be as accurate as
possible.

“I
think all of us realize we’re not going to end up doing this in the timeframe,”
said Shockley. “We need to make it as accurate as possible timewise.”

The
construction climate, with major projects coming up at Wor-Wic Community
College and the Worcester County Jail, means that some projects will have to
wait.

“We
don’t want to be competing with ourselves,” Shockley said.

The
Board of Education is waiting on final word from the Maryland Board of Public
Works on funding for the Pocomoke High School renovation and expansion, said
Dr. Jon Andes, superintendent of Worcester County schools.

The
county would like to get bids out before other major projects are ready, to
avoid the competition, he said.

The
Snow Hill High School renovation will be pushed back a year or even two, Andes
said.

Construction
of a new cell at the landfill can wait until 2011 or 2012, said Director of
Public Works John Tustin.

Commissioner
Linda Busick wanted to see Showell Elementary School (SES) improvements moved
forward, in place of projects like the proposed performing arts center.

 “While it is something I would like to see
happen, it is not No. 1 on my priority list,” she said.

There
are eight mobile classrooms at SES, Busick pointed out. “They have 504
children. I want to see them attended to,” she said.

“They
will be, at budget time, Shockley said.

Tuesday’s
meeting included a public hearing on the capital improvement plan. Resident
Ellie Diegelmann went before the commissioners with several items to discuss.

 “My biggest concern is bonds. It’s not just
us here and now. It’s future generations who are going to be paying that back,”
said Diegelmann, who unsuccessfully ran for commissioner last year.

The
$2.2 million performing arts center included in the plan is not necessary, she
said, and she wondered whether the building could pay for itself once built.

“This
is just a plan. There’s nothing cast in stone,” Commissioner Jim Purnell told
her.          

Diegelmann
asked the county to make sure such hearings are advertised more.

Commissioner
Bud Church told Diegelmann her representatives take all these projects
seriously.

 “These are probably some of the most
conservative commissioners you’ll find,” said Church. “We have schools we have
to build, jails we have to build. They have to be built.”

While
the school projects will be bonded out, the jail will not. Any project needing
to be bonded out is subject to a public hearing, said Kelly Shanahan, deputy
administrative officer.

Diegelmann
suggested putting more money into addiction treatment programs, rather than
expanding the jail.

 “The longer you wait to do something, the
more expensive it gets,” Church said. 

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