County Executive Ken Ulman Friday unveiled a $175.3 million capital budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 that focuses on schools, libraries and road improvements.
"This year's capital budget focuses on reinvesting in our existing infrastructure," Ulman said in a statement. "With the state budget still in flux, we continue to be conservative in our decision-making process, and are always mindful that priorities such as education — which again makes up the largest portion of this proposed budget — the environment and key infrastructure come first."
School projects account for $74 million of Ulman's proposal. Funding is slated for construction of a new elementary school on Ducketts Lane in Elkridge and major renovations to Atholton High, Phelps Luck Elementary and Gorman Crossing Elementary, among other projects.
Howard Community College would receive $13.5 million to finish construction of its new health sciences building and to complete engineering plans for a new science, technology and engineering building.
About $9.3 million is slated to go to renovations of the Savage Branch Library and the old Miller Branch Library, which will be used for library administrative offices and to expand the Ellicott City Senior Center next door.
Perhaps the only surprise in Ulman's proposal is $600,000 for a new bridge across Route 29, connecting downtown Columbia to Oakland Mills.
At a public hearing on the budget last month, Oakland Mills residents asked Ulman to allocate $200,000 to $300,000 for a feasibility study of such a bridge, which would replace the existing footbridge with a larger bridge that would accommodate buses, bikers and pedestrians.
At the hearing, Ulman expressed concerns about the need for a bridge that would accommodate transit, but his budget would fund a bridge study, as well as preliminary designs and construction.
Continuing the record-breaking investments he made in storm water controls last year, Ulman also allocated $11 million for storm water facility upgrades, retrofits and stream and watershed improvements. Last year's capital budget included $10 million for such storm water controls.
With land recently purchased to relocate the Elkridge fire station, Ulman's proposal includes $1.5 million to start design work on the station.
Ulman's proposal also includes $10.5 million for road resurfacing projects, many of which had been deferred over the past few years because of the recession and decreased revenues.
"That is one of the complaints we get the most, 'Why aren't the roads in better shape?'" Department of Public Works director Jim Irvin said in a statement. "With this level of funding we can make critical repairs at several locations throughout the County."
Roads slated for resurfacing include Centennial Lane, Cradlerock Way, Vollmerhausen Road and West Running Brook Road.
Also in the budget is $5.3 million for construction of the second phase of Blandair Park, in Columbia, the first phase of which opened last month.
To help pay for the proposed capital projects, the county is taking out $95 million in new bond debt, $5 million less than the Spending Affordability Committee's recommendation.
The County Council, which has to approve Ulman's request, will hold a hearing on the capital budget April 16 at 7:30 p.m. and a work session April 19 at 1 p.m. Both meetings will be held in the George Howard Building, in Ellicott City.