Montco approves $6.9M for open space, $42.3M for capital projects

Montgomery County is opening its wallet a little wider to pay for parks, infrastructure and other projects in 2013.

The commissioners Thursday approved $6.9 million in county spending for open spaces and $42.3 million for capital projects. Both county spending and matching funds are higher than the commissioners had projected last year.  (In case you're still learning to navigate the new county website, the new and old budgets are posted here.)

The 2013 Open Space Budget allots funding to several park and trail improvements, farmland preservation and visitor centers. The county’s share is $1.1 million higher than the commissioners projected last year, but in return they received $4.3 million in grant revenue — more than double last year’s projection.

The 2013 Capital Fund Budget also increased from 2012, primarily due to a $13.7 million down-payment on a new public safety radio system. The communication system for emergency personnel, which county officials had been debating for about a decade, was not included in last year’s funding projections.

A deal was signed with Motorola in December.  The radio system will cost the county another $13.5 million in 2014, and the county and local municipalities will share about $6 million in additional costs for new radios.  The commissioners said Thursday that the county would subsidize interest and fees for any municipalities that need to borrow money for their radio units.

The capital fund budget also allocates $8 million in county spending for road and bridge repairs. Last year, the county projected $3.7 million for 2013 road and bridge costs.

Several infrastructure projects around the county seat in Norristown are finally getting underway. Replacing the courthouse garage will cost $18.5 million over three years, but only $1 million in 2013. Structural repairs to the Main Street garage will cost $1.6 million in 2013 and another $6.6 million in 2014.  And restoration of county headquarters at One Montgomery Plaza will cost $18.5 million over the next four years. Although the building’s facade is literally falling to pieces — scaffolds and netting are set up to catch crumbling concrete — most of the repairs are budgeted to start in 2014.

Despite the large capital-fund projects, total spending from 2013 to 2017 is 30 percent lower than was projected for 2012 to 2016.

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