St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said Tuesday he wants to add $350,000 to the budget of the county’s economic and community development office to prepare for restructuring of the Navy’s presence here.
With such a heavy economic reliance on Patuxent River Naval Air Station and lack of a diverse economic marketplace, Morgan said, the county government is not adequately prepared to address questions that would come in another round of base realignment and closure. Data calls would come gauging the county’s ability to support the base during a BRAC. “We’re not where we need to be at the present time,” he said.
The money would be used to hire a consultant to amass data on the county’s infrastructure to be in better position to address those BRAC questions, Morgan said.
“We are not prepared right now addressing the big issues,” he said, in order to bring in a research park to St. Mary’s or to do civilian research on unmanned aircraft. Both those initiatives are being discussed by government officials as well as private industry and community leaders in a bid to diversify the local economy in a time of diminishing Pentagon funding. “All this has to be studied and examined,” Morgan said.
The St. Mary’s County commissioners have already agreed to apply for a federal grant to inventory the assets the county has in order to diversify the local economy. The total cost of that work is $50,000 to be split between the county and federal government.
“I’m proposing it to be considered,” Morgan said of the $350,000 infusion to the economic and community development department. The currently proposed budget for that department is $1,284,194, starting after July 1.
Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R) said of Morgan’s proposal Tuesday, “This is the first I’ve heard of this. Is there a plan? I would like to see a written proposal.”
“We dedicated some of the fund balance to BRAC,” Commissioner Cindy Jones (R) said. The county has set aside $7.5 million should it have to quickly build infrastructure to support Pax River.
Morgan said the $350,000 would be used “to begin to get our ducks in order.” He said there are numerous organizations outside of St. Mary’s County government that are duplicating work and “they’re stepping on top of each other. We have to start to do something. We can’t wait for the shoe to drop on us and say ‘Gee, that felt good.’”
Morgan said Wednesday, “I see a whole lot of hodgepodge organizations out there trying to do well. There’s no synergy.”
In past BRACs, St. Mary’s came out well, he said. “Now communities are fighting. Now it’s a matter of survival,” he said.
The $350,000 would come from county government’s fund balance, which was $24.9 million as of June 30, 2012. There is $8 million unassigned right now.