Stimulus Funds To Repave School Road

SNOW HILL – The County Commissioners briefly discussed a road repaving, flush tax grants and the beach replenishment fund at their first April meeting.

— Federal stimulus funding will pay for the repaving of Seahawk Rd., which provides access to Stephen Decatur Middle School and Stephen Decatur High School.

Worcester County has been awarded $1.3 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. That money will allow the county to repave all or portions of four roads in the county.

Nassawango Rd. and St. Luke’s Rd. will be resurfaced in addition to Seahawk Rd., with part of Old Furnace Rd. added to the task list this week after lower bids than expected came in for the original three.

Only eight roads in the county were eligible for the ARRA funding, said Director of Public Works John Tustin.

“Seahawk Rd. especially is in dire need of paving in front of the middle school and the high school,” Tustin said.

“That road is a mess,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley.

Road resurfacing will otherwise be rare in Worcester County over the next fiscal year, Tustin warned at a recent budget work session.

The fiscal year 2011 budget has no room for paving roads, with just enough to do essential maintenance, Tustin said.

“A lot of our roads are showing a lot of deterioration especially on the shoulders,” said Roads Supervisor Merrill Lockfaw.

The county could spend $500,000 fixing Flower St., which has 11 significant potholes, Tustin said.

Three years ago, the state passed $5.2 million on to the county for roads. This year, that amount will be just $98,000, Tustin said.

— New state rules governing flush tax funding priorities will take effect in Worcester County next year, directing grant funding to failing septic systems in the Coastal Bays Critical Area first.

Staff went before the Worcester County Commissioners this week to update elected officials on the new rules for granting Bay Restoration Fund septic grants.

The new priority list puts failing septic systems or septic holding tanks in the Critical Area first. Second priority for grant funding goes to failing septic systems or holding tanks outside the Critical Area.

Non-failing, existing septic systems in the Critical Area would come third on the list, with non-failing septics outside the Critical Area last.

The last category will not even be included in the funding request, according to staff.

In the first few years of the bay restoration grant funding, the county had focused on upgrading systems in the Critical Area.

Under the new rules, the county must apply for a share of the $8.5 million in state flush tax funding with the other 22 counties in Maryland.

The county will ask for roughly $700,000 for each of the next two fiscal years, which will provide over 60 upgrades annually. The work will be done by local contractors.

“We thought that was a reasonable amount,” said Ed Tudor, director of Development Review and Permitting.

If not enough funding is available to upgrade all failing systems encountered over a year, the county can request further funding from the state for those systems.                           

Over the last three years, the county used about $1 million for 100 septic system upgrades, said Worcester County Environmental Programs Coordinator Bob Mitchell.

— Beach replenishment funding will remain where it is, at least as far as Worcester County’s and Ocean City’s contribution, staff reported to county elected officials this week.

In March, the commissioners agreed with Ocean City in asking the state to leave the local contributions to that beach fund in place, instead of funneling that money into state coffers and assigned general obligation bonds to beach replenishment.

“The secretary has agreed to keep the funds within a certain account … I think we’re okay,” said Worcester County Finance Officer Harold Higgins.