Commissioners tackle Carroll's only stoplight

Jon Kelvey
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

In all of Carroll County, there is only one traffic light the county is responsible for maintaining, virtually all signals being maintained by the Maryland State Highway Administration. This is the signal at the intersection of Ridge Road and Kali Drive, at the entrance to the Eldersburg Commons development in Eldersburg.

It was the source of some confusion at Thursday morning's Board of County Commissioners meeting.

The light had been put in as part of the Eldersburg Commons redevelopment, County Bureau Chief of Engineering Debra Butler told the commissioners, but her bureau was having difficulty finding a contractor that would agree to maintain the signal because it was just one, rather than a constellation of traffic lights. They were eventually able to come to an agreement with Bruce and Merrilees Electric Co. to maintain the light, and needed the commissioners to concur.

That's when $473,000 was brought up.

"What would it cost to take the light down and put a traffic circle in?" Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2.

As was eventually explained, after a lengthy conversation between the commissioners and staff, this figure was not the actual cost of maintaining the traffic signal.

"That was the total of all the items we requested pricing for. We would never expect to pay that much annually," Butler said in an interview after the meeting. "We were not asking them to approve $473,000."

Instead, $473,00 is the result of adding up the cost of 55 potential spare parts and maintenance costs, Butler said, the absolute worst-case replacement cost for the traffic signal, not the actual projected costs of service and spare parts for five years, which is the term of the proposed contract with Bruce and Merrilees Electric.

"If you buy a duplicate of everything to stock for that traffic light, it would be $473,000 but they are not going to stock everything," said Commissioners Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, in an interview after the meeting. "The manufacture will usually provide a list of recommended spares that is usually less than the full list of components."

For the first year of the contract, the actual projected cost of the maintenance would be $12,000, Butler said. Her staff have gone back and estimated what the likely, rather than worst case, cost of the contract and spares might cost the county for the next five years and plan to present this to the commissioners next week.

The other wrinkle that was explained in the meeting is that according to a memorandum of understanding between the Eldersburg Commons developer and the county, the developer, Eldersburg Sustainable Redevelopment LLC, will reimburse the county for the costs of maintaining the light each year, according to Butler. They will do this for 10 years.

"We will keep track of everything that we do to it and then send it to them at the end of the year and then they will reimburse us within 30 days," she said.

That sounded a little sweeter to Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3.

"As soon as they said the developer is paying for it, I felt much better," he said at the meeting.

In other business, commissioners Frazier, Weaver and Rothschild — Commissioners Doug Howard, R-District 5, and Steve Wantz, R-District 1, were absent — voted to approve the submission of an application for a Maryland Community Development block grant on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster.

The $800,000 competitive grant, if approved, would help fund the construction of a gymnasium at the new Main Street Westminster location of the Boys & Girls Club, itself currently under construction. A matching $800,000 would be provided by the Kahlert Foundation and no county funds would be spent, said Christine Kay, director of citizen services.

Commissioners Weaver asked the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster, Bonnae Meshulam, if the club had any plans to expand elsewhere in Carroll in the future.

"Once we get settled our next expansion honestly is in Taneytown," Meshulam said. "That is on our radar because of the need."

A discussion concerning the development and subdivision of land and a "clustering incentive" in areas zoned for medium density residential was put off until next week because Howard and Wantz were not there.

"I would like to hold this off for one week ... so we have input from everybody," Weaver said.

jon.kelvey@carrollcountytimes.com

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