Schools Top Wicomico County’s Capital Wish List

SALISBURY – School improvements, investments at the Salisbury airport and funding for a new public safety building topped the county executive’s list of capital improvement projects in the coming fiscal year.

Last week, county staff presented the Wicomico County Council with County Executive Bob Culver’s proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for fiscal years 2020-2024.

The CIP, a planning document which outlines major projects in the coming years, includes $222.5 million in proposed capital projects in the next five years, including $88 million for the Wicomico County Board of Education, $64 million for the Salisbury airport and $35 million for Wor-Wic Community College.

In fiscal year 2020, the planning document includes $49.2 million in proposed capital projects, including $20.4 million for school planning and construction projects, $18 million for airport improvements and $945,000 for roads projects. The plan also includes nearly $5.2 million for a new public safety building, which will house the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office and the emergency services department.

“The Capital Improvement Plan embodies the long-range strategic vision for the county It should be affordable but also aspirational,” Culver wrote in the planning document. “To this end, we are proposing projects that will maintain or enhance core services of education public safety, roads and general government while supporting and promoting community quality of life and economic development.”

Weston Young, the county’s assistant director of administration, told the council last week less than half of total projects costs in fiscal year 2020 will be funded through general obligation bonds and pay-go (or pay-as-you-go) funding.

“Of that, $20.9 million comes from a combination of a proposed $12 million bond and $8.9 million in pay-go,” he said. “The balance of that … will primarily come from state and federal grant sources.”

Young added that the county would retire $11 million in debt in the next fiscal year.

“So the incremental debt will rise by $1 million with our $12 million borrowing proposal,” he said. “Our total debt burden will remain at approximately 51 percent of the charter limit.”

In the coming fiscal year, the county executive has proposed nearly $10 million in funding for the school system’s three priority projects, which include the replacement of Beaver Run Elementary School, planning and studies for the replacement or renovation of Mardela Middle and High School and a roof replacement at Westside Intermediate School.

“They are within budget and it is a good plan,” Wayne Strausburg, the county’s director of administration, said.

Young added the executive’s proposed plan also includes $855,500 for maintenance projects at various county-owned buildings and the second half of funding for a new public safety building.

“On the public safety building, are we going to receive a more in-depth briefing on the plans of that before we approve the CIP?” Councilman Marc Kilmer asked.

Strausburg explained county staff will have a better understanding of where the project stands once they select an architectural engineering firm.

“The first thing we have to do is get this project within the limits we put in the CIP,” he said. “So we have quite a bit of work to do internally so we can give direction to the architect.”

Strausburg said he anticipates the design and construction process to take two years.

In the coming weeks, the council will review the proposed CIP and hold work sessions with county departments.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.