Gary backs off on finds for signs Executives agrees to spend $200,000 for road repairs


Bowing to the wishes of county lawmakers, Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary will spend $200,000 he had wanted to use to replace thousands of street signs on road repairs instead, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

The County Council demanded in a letter Monday that Mr. Gary use the money to repave deteriorating roads. The action came two weeks after the council learned that a public works official had misled them about the sign replacement program.

Lisa Ritter, the executive's spokeswoman, said Mr. Gary has agreed to transfer the money to a road-resurfacing account as soon as possible. The money is part of a $691,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Lawmakers approved the sign program Oct. 3, after Assistant Public Works Director Robert Loomis told them federal safety rules required installing new signs with larger letters and a more reflective coating. The replacement program would cost $1.8 million over the next five years, he told the council.

Council members reacted angrily when they learned two days later that the changeover was not mandatory.

"We felt that if it wasn't a [federal] mandate, then the money would be more wisely spent on a legitimate county need," council Chairwoman Diane Evans said yesterday.

The county, which maintains about 1,600 miles of road, tries to resurface about 100 miles a year, said public works spokeswoman Betty Dixon. Because of funding limitations, resurfacing has been confined to 50 to 75 miles in each of the past three years.

The coun-ty plans to spend about $2.4 million repaving 57 miles of road during fiscal 1996, which ends June 30, Ms. Dixon said.

Ms. Evans, an Arnold Republican, said she did not know how or why lawmakers received the wrong information.

"Perhaps [Mr. Loomis] was not as well prepared as he ought to have been," she said. "This is something the we don't like to see, something the council doesn't appreciate and something we don't want to happen again."

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