Your mother no doubt told you that money doesn't grow on trees, but in Harford County many of us, including our elected officials, tend to think more in terms of another of those trite phrases: The streets are paved with gold.
Well, maybe we should amend that one to say: We have unlimited supplies of capital. That's clearly what any stranger would be led to believe upon a casual perusal of Harford County Executive David Craig's capital budget or to hear most of the talk from citizens who attended recent county council hearings on Craig's 2013 operating and capital budgets.
Actually, some people want to spend even more than what Craig has proposed, like Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett, who commented at last Wednesday's hearing in Havre de Grace that his city needs and deserves a new community activity center, just like the ones the county has built in Bel Air, Havre de Grace and Fallston.
Or, how about the folks from the Humane Society of Harford County, who have been asking for that new animal shelter in Fallston, slated in at $6.4 million in the 2013 capital budget?
The folks from Churchville Recreation Council have also been told "wait 'til next year" plenty of times on a second recreation facility - note we say second - for maybe six or seven years running. (We suspect the advocates for the new library that was once planned in conjunction with the new rec center may have given up – or at least gone underground.)
And, pity those poor folks whose children attend Youth's Benefit Elementary in Fallston and have been promised a new school only to be told to wait their turn, along with the kids and parents at William Paca-Old Post Road Elementary, Homestead-Wakefield Elementary and John Archer School, and let's not forget the county executive has been talking up a new high school building for his alma mater in Havre de Grace. It seems neither the school board nor the county government can agree which school project must take priority – so why not do them all?
We've also noted in news stories and in this space recently that the county executive is planning to spend north of $40 million to build a new emergency operations center because the current building is too cramped. Oh, and let's not forget that Craig pledged to have artificial turf fields at all the high schools — one was just approved by the board of estimates for C. Milton Wright and the remaining fields are in the pipeline.
Funny, but it seems like only the people who don't want the county to spend money next year are the beleaguered folks living in Joppa who oppose Craig's planned trash transfer station in their community. That one carries a $3 million price tag next year but, ultimately, according to the long-range capital budget, the county could end up spending as much as $15 million on this facility.
Without questioning the need for these and the other planned or wished-for projects, we do think it's prudent to point out that the one issue that is never satisfactorily addressed in all these grandiose plans is how much can the citizens of our county really afford?
Notice we say "afford," because it's become abundantly clear there's no limit to how much people in this county are willing to spend. Just ask them.