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New capital budget process leaves Frederick delegates with divided priorities

ANNAPOLIS — The pot of state money available to fund local projects won’t be large enough to meet all of Frederick County’s requests this year, the county delegation acknowledged on Monday.

The six delegates representing Frederick County gather early in the week to rank their funding priorities from among the nearly $1 million worth of projects submitted by local nonprofits, historical societies and municipal governments.

Overall, there is an estimated $90 million worth of local project requests statewide and only $15 million of funding.

In the past, there were bond bills and the delegates would advocate for funding on behalf of projects in their districts. The process has changed this session — at the request of the House capital budget subcommittee chairwoman, Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) — so that each county must rank its priorities as one.

“It’s a learning experience for me, too. I do know last week when I met with her and the [House] speaker that [they said to] pull your county together and see what projects you all support,” said Del. Carol Krimm (D-Frederick), chairwoman of the Frederick County delegation.

Krimm also serves on the House Appropriations Committee, and is scheduled to sit down with Jones on Thursday to discuss the county’s priorities.

The six delegates unanimously agreed to maintain their support of the county’s projects already funded in Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) budget, which was released in January. That includes money for Hood College and Mount St. Mary’s University as well as infrastructure in the city of Brunswick, $500,000 for a county detox center, $400,000 for a south county YMCA and $250,000 each for New Spire Arts and the county’s ROOT Business Innovation Center.

However, Del. Karen Lewis Young, who represents District 3A with Krimm, said she was uncomfortable ranking the proposed projects in District 4, which her Republican colleagues Del. Dan Cox, Del. Jesse Pippy and Del. Barrie Ciliberti collectively represent. Lewis Young said she couldn’t accurately represent what the wants and needs were outside her district.

Lewis Young and Del. Ken Kerr, who represents District 3B, each submitted a list of priorities for their districts before the meeting. Their top three projects both include $200,000 to construct an inclusive playground in memory of Sophie and Madigan Lillard, $75,000 for the acquisition and construction of bocce courts in Baker Park and $25,000 to complete HVAC and building repairs for Heritage Frederick.

The three delegates for District 4 instead chose to rank a $100,000 request from the city of Brunswick to help repair a portion of its drinking water infrastructure, called Yourtee Springs, as its top priority. The spring was taken out of operation after potentially contaminated groundwater infiltrated the spring during the heavy rain in 2018.

Repairing Yourtee Springs overall is expected to cost $500,000, but it is still cheaper than pulling and treating all of Brunswick’s water from the Potomac River, The News-Post previously reported.

Cox, Ciliberti and Pippy also agreed to advance a proposal for $155,000 to help design and construct an opioid recovery house in the county run by the CrossRoads Freedom Center, $75,000 to purchase and repair of the Shafer Farm House by the Burkittsville Preservation Association and $88,000 to restore the Museum of the Ironworker at Catoctin Furnace.

“We’re trying to prioritize what’s most important to the people in the county: wafter, the opioid crisis and then we’ll get into the fun stuff like museums and such,” Pippy said.

Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick & Carroll) also ranked Yourtee Springs, the Museum of the Ironworker and CrossRoads Freedom Recovery Center as his top priorities. He will work with Sen. Ron Young (D-Frederick) on getting funding for projects in the state Senate. Young had not submitted priorities as of Monday.

Krimm anticipated that Frederick County would walk away with some of the $15 million, however, the budget is going to be tight, she said.

The Department of Legislative Services has already requested that the legislature consider cutting $492.7 million from the next budget, which will cover fiscal 2020. Krimm said the proposed cuts were likely in response to a “revenue write-down,” which is an accounting term for there not being as much revenue coming in as expected.

The federal government shutdown at the start of the year may be one of the reasons that state revenue has fallen short, Krimm speculated. A larger economic downturn is also a possibility.

“In anticipation of a write-down, we’ve been given these recommended cuts,” Krimm said.

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