Big Money Tagged For County Infrastructure, Open Space
More than $300 million in spending is planned through 2017.
The Montgomery County Board of Commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved $67.9 million in open space and capital infrastructure spending for 2013, comprising the first years of two separate five-year plans that are projected to spend $302.7 million on various county properties and infrastructure.
This year's $11.2 million portion of the five-year, $18.5 million open space plan includes just under $5 million in spending on expansion, repairs, and improvements to the Schuylkill River Trail, the Pennypack Trail, and the Chester Valley Trail. The remainder of the money will go to farmland preservation, improvements to existing county parkland, the Audubon Mill Grove Visitor Center, and various previously approved open space commitments to municipalities and private organizations.
The open space expenditures will be offset by about $4.3 million in grant revenues, leaving just under $7 million to be covered by the county's open space funds.
The largest share of the $56.7 million in capital expeditures for 2013 will go towards the county's roads and bridges, including about $14.5 million for the ongoing Lafayette Street project, which will eventually connect Norristown to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Another $13.5 million will go towards the county's new public safety radio system. The county's information technology infrastructure will receive $7.9 million in upgrades.
Another $227 million in repairs and upgrades to county infrastructure, including remediation of dozens of "structurally deficient" bridges and extensive repairs needed to both the county's main office buildings and at the courthouse garages, is scheduled between 2014 and 2017.
Uri Monson, the county's chief financial officer, said the county only has about $3.5 million in its capital fund balance and will need to borrow money to proceed as outlined.
"We are going to have to do a borrowing ... we are still working with our financial advisors to determine what the proper sizing [of a bond issuance] is," Monson said.
"It will at least have a 'not to exceed' amount so we know what our [borrowing] cap is," Monson said.
Commissioner Leslie Richards said both supplementary budgets represented "investments in county assets."
Commissioner Bruce Castor said both the open space plan and the capital project plan comprised two additional welcome departures from former modes of operation under previous county administrations.
"One of the things that was a tremendous matter of disagreement for the previous board was using county capital funds for things other than county assets. This board has adopted the reverse of what had previously been the case, and this reflects what I believe to be a major change in policy by this board," Castor said.
A proposed bond issuance is expected to be ready for the commissioners' consideration at the board's next meeting on March 21.