Now that the public knows Montgomery County has issues with bridges and infrastructure, the county decided to take matters into its own hands.
In the latest commissioners’ meeting, the county approved a $146.5 million capital budget that would help in the next five years of fixing major issues.
The problems that the county faced couldn’t be ignored anymore. Even the building that meetings and county employees work in has major infrastructure problems. These problems didn’t come overnight, though.
“I know when we were here just last week on our 100 days [meeting] we all said that we had reviled some surprises that we did not expect and many of us said that we knew that there will be more,” said Vice Chairman Leslie Richards.
Just last week, the commissioners learned that the Main Street garage would need more than $6 million in repair.
County Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson presented a detailed presentation of the problems, which included pictures of what water damage has done to the buildings.
“I think it’s obvious that our problems are big and comprehensive and need immediate attention,” he said. “It is just so obvious with these pictures what our issues are. They really need immediate attention. Putting these costs off will only make it more and more expensive.”
Commissioner Bruce Castor, who has voiced his opinions lately with how prior administration dealt with money, stated that something should’ve been done before the building was purchase.
“Somebody decided to buy this building without making sure it was sound,” he said. “Somebody made decisions on how to spend tens and millions of dollars to repair things that didn’t need to be repaired in order to address the immediate problems such as the water damage.”
The county purchased the building for $26 million in 2006. Monson can’t find record of the county inspecting the building before purchase.
“There is no record of one being done by an outside consultant, I don’t know if there was one done by internal public property whether to advice the commissioners at the time,” said Monson.
As for the bridges, the budget is expected to address the huge problem the county faces. The county has 26 bridges, which are considered posted, which means there is a weight limit placed on the bridge because the bridge isn’t functioning in the capacity it was meant to function in.
Seven county bridges are closed, while 75 bridges are over 60 years old, which equals out to 73 percent.
“I also think It is prudent that we invest in our own assets and that is a huge priority of our administration here and it is really what this capital budget sets out to do,” Richards said.
As of Jan 1, the county is $418 million in debt. Munson wants to shed the debt to about $390 million at the end of the year.
“This is meant to be a living working document,” Munson said. “It is a plan of what we know today. Things will change.”
“As a taxpayer, I am angry, angry that [the prior administration] ignored the problems, that they had misplaced priorities that will end up costing us more money down the road,” said Commissioner Chairman Josh Shapiro.
As usual, Castor let the board know that there are still tough times ahead, even though they are heading into the right direction.
“Unless we know how to create money from no where, we are going to be making some very difficult decisions,” he said. “Even though we are only in April, the public has to know that.”