Final year for Harford's Craig will be a busy one, he says

Harford County Executive David Craig is in his final 15 months in office, and while his time as the head of the county government is short, his list of projects to accomplish is long.

Craig presented a 35-page update to editors and reporters from The Aegis Wednesday, detailing the priorities of his administration for the remainder of 2013 and 2014.

"It's the final one-year plan," he said.

Craig, a Republican, will leave office in early December 2014. By then he hopes to have been elected Maryland's next governor, a post he began campaigning for this summer.

His presentation Wednesday was filled with details on various capital projects, and progress reports on various entities administration officials are working to create or have created, such as the Department of Emergency Services, plus various administration initiatives.

They include improvements to public schools and Harford Community College, the formation of a "quasi-governmental" Water and Sewer Authority with the county's three municipalities, property acquisitions, the county's progress on putting into practice "state mandates" to strengthen environmental protections and development regulations, the latest on projects to support community organizations, information technology upgrades, a pay study for county workers and changes to the employee pension plan to "make it more financially viable."

School construction

Highlights of the presentation included Craig's priorities for Harford County Public Schools capital projects: replacing Youth's Benefit Elementary School in Fallston, William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary in Abingdon and Havre de Grace High School, plus improvements to Joppatowne High School.

The Board of Education recently approved a Capital Improvement Plan for the 2015 fiscal year which included requests to the state for "Local Planning" approval for Havre de Grace and Joppatowne, and for $18 million in local and state construction funds for Youth's Benefit.

William Paca/Old Post Road was not included in the CIP, however.

"I think it will happen," Craig said when asked if Havre de Grace High, his alma mater, would be replaced.

He stressed the state must clear the county to begin the planning process, which would allow it to apply for design and engineering funds, and construction money. He has set aside $3.9 million in local funds for design and engineering.

Craig has also targeted athletic fields at four high schools for new synthetic turf fields, the final four to get them. The replacement of Aberdeen High School's field is ongoing and is expected to be finished by November.

He has prioritized Joppatowne High's field for 2014, Fallston High's for 2015 and Patterson Mill's for 2016, about a decade after the combined middle and high school opened.


In the transportation arena, Craig said BRAC-related road and rail service improvements serving Aberdeen Proving Ground will remain a priority.

He said improvements to Route 22's intersections with Paradise Road, Beards Hill Road and Old Post Road have been funded by the state and are expected to be finished in 2014.

Potential property acquisitions by the county include the Mariner Point Swim Club in Joppatowne; residents who patronized the pool for decades have protested a decision by the owner to sell to a Baltimore-based church, and have pushed county leaders to purchase the property for a local community center.

Church officials have a contract to purchase the property, and Craig stressed Wednesday that the county cannot take action while there is already a contract in effect.

"We could be interested in this, but we cannot do anything on this officially until the other contract disappears," he explained.

Craig, 64, is the longest-serving county executive since the office was created in 1972. The county charter limits the executive to two four-year terms; however, Craig served out the final 18 months of then-executive Jim Harkins' term beginning in July 2005 after Harkins resigned to take a state job. Craig was re-elected to full terms in 2006 and 2010. He began his record setting ninth year in office in July.

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