Friday, August 24, 2012

How to Prioritize our Capital Projects

Statement read at the 7/31/12 BOCC Worksession Meeting: What is the Board of County Commissioner’s policy for prioritizing bridge repairs as well as the scope of bridge repairs? I previously posed this question to Director Flanigan and was told that several factors weighed into this: cost, current and anticipated use, location (whether it’s in the priority funding area or outside), and I would like to include political will. It has become increasingly apparent that the scope of the Old Elk Neck Road project from just a simple replacement to a large infrastructure expansion outside of the priority funding area is being driven by this very issue. If you argue the large infrastructure overhaul allows for emergency equipment to cross the bridge for improved emergency response, bridges for Mill Lane in Earleville and Rolling Mill in North East were also supported by the local fire departments for improved emergency response. After speaking with many citizens in the Old Elk Neck area, the overwhelming majority agree a bridge replacement would be adequate for this area and understand why it would not be fiscally responsible to invest close to $5 million in a non priority funding area. If we did a bridge replacement minus the road widening and some of the other improvements, I believe there would be enough revenue to replace the bridge at Rolling Mill and possibly complete some of the work on Mill Lane. If we do bridge replacements we need to make sure all the taxpayers are being served in an equitable manner and that the Board of County Commissioners are following a policy that is consistent across the board. I contacted Phillip Pearce who headed up the Friends of Mill Lane and he provided a history on how the Board of County Commissioners at first agreed to reopen this area for traffic but then, he believes, succumbed to political will from a commissioner that lives on this road and likes his privacy. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but I do want to explore if there is funding still available from the Spectron Settlement that was previously approved to be used for remediation on Scotchman Creek. The previous $3.2 million estimate to reopen the road is no longer valid because a dam replacement is not possible and other less costly options which include installing a culvert have not been assessed. I have also contacted a representative from Benjamin’s Lumber in North East and they have actively pursued the replacement of Rolling Mill Bridge. The Mayor of North East also confirmed that he would pursue financing with his board to help with the replacement of the bridge. Director Flanigan and Director Brooks as well as the local fire department and police have also identified this bridge replacement as critical due to water plant issues, emergency response and access to local business and alleviation of traffic congestion. Director Flanigan also stressed that it should be the position of the County that only as a last resort we would remove a bridge from our inventory because once that road is closed, it’s difficult to open it back up and it’s in the county’s best interest to not take any bridges off our inventory list.