Cecil County Roads Need $2 Million in Urgent Storm Repairs; Broomell Objects to ‘Growing Government’ with Asphalt
Itâ€™s been a rough winter on Cecil County roads, as multiple snowstorms and freezing temperatures have buckled pavement and opened up crater-sized potholes on many streets and highways. So county roads officials are asking to tap reserve funds to pay for emergency repairs as well as new budgeting flexibility so that allocated funds donâ€™t expire before the repairs can be made in spring and summer.
County Department of Public Works director Scott Flanigan and county Finance Director Winston Robinson explained the two-part initiative to the County Council at a Tuesday morning worksession, describing the plan as a more cost-efficient and work-efficient way of handling the damage inflicted by this winterâ€™s non-stop battering of roadways.
The two officials proposed tapping $2 million of the countyâ€™s â€śfund balanceâ€ť reserve funds, with $1.5 million used for pothole filling, â€śmill and patchâ€ť repairs of many damaged roads, and full reconstruction of four severely damaged roads. In addition, about $500,000 would be used to repair bus loops at several schools that are so damaged they pose a threat to school bus and student safety.
Flanigan emphasized that the project list drawn up by road officials is still growing, as new storms and freeze/thaw cycles in just the two weeks since his list was drawn up could require additional repair work. The four roads proposed for full reconstruction are Laurel Way, Edgar Price Road, Joe Meltz Road, and Cassidy Wharf Road.
Given the volume of repair work needed on many roads, the county could be up against both a fiscal and practical time crunch, Robinson said, because the countyâ€™s current budget year ends on June 30. So if the money he and Flanigan are asking for to do the emergency storm repairs is not spent by the end of June, under current procedures the money would revert to the countyâ€™s general fund and would not be available for paving.
Flanigan noted that asphalt plants that produce the needed paving and repair materials do not resume operations until the weather warms up and have not yet begun producing materials for what will be a jam-packed schedule of spring and summer paving jobs.
And the problems are compounded by the county having failed to keep up with needed road maintenance projects last year and in several previous years. Now, after the very harsh winter, the problems â€śare coming home to roost,â€ť Flanigan said.
So a legislative proposal asking for the emergency repair funds includes provisions to create a â€ścapital project fundâ€ť that would not expire at the end of the fiscal year and could continue to be tapped to complete the authorized projects.
â€śI have a very strong objection to creating this account,â€ť declared County Councilor Diana Broomell (R-4). â€śItâ€™s growing government,â€ť she said, and she claimed county officials might â€śdip inâ€ť to the account for other unspecified projects.
But Robinson said the account would be limited to the repair and resurfacing projects needed to recover from the storms.
Inclusion of the county schools bus loop repavingâ€”which would normally be handled by the schoolsâ€™ own capital improvement and repair budgetâ€”was added to the DPW request because it would expedite the repairs to have one request for proposal bidding process rather than two.
Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) noted that the county would be competing with many private businesses this spring trying to get repair work done to recover from the brutal winter damage. â€śI think the paving companies are going to make out like bandits this year,â€ť he observed.
During the County Councilâ€™s Tuesday evening meeting, at which the $2 million paving and fiscal accounting proposal was introduced as a legislative resolution, county Director of Administration Al Wein said the proposal was â€śa much more efficientâ€ť way of handling the roads problem and would â€śexpedite repairs.â€ť He noted that the county had spent just $1 million, derived from the Perryville casino revenues to the county, last year on road resurfacing.
â€śThatâ€™s a substantial increase,â€ť Broomell said of the new $2 million proposal. â€śWeâ€™re not just filling potholes; weâ€™re resurfacing roads.â€ť
[UPDATE: Earlier this month, the Council approved an emergency measure to take another $400,000 from the county's "fund balance" reserve funds, to pay for the much higher than anticipated snow removal costs this winter, due to the multiple snow and ice storms of the season.]