Funds totaling $5.6 million that were to be used for the Patuxent Park revitalization project will now be reallocated to extend the runway at the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport, as approved by a 5-0 vote Tuesday by the St. Mary’s commissioners.
The revitalization project in the Lexington Park neighborhood will continue, although the date for completion is now years past the original plan.
The funding will help “create enough money in the recycling fund,” allowing St. Mary’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation to cover the grants it has received for the airport project and “award the contract to build us a new apron at the airport, relocate part of the taxiway … and developing the west end of the airport,” John Deatrick, director of public works, said, adding, “we get the money back as we build the project.”
The funds would have gone unspent this year if left in the Patuxent Park project budget because the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission is “behind in their work” on the project, Deatrick said during the meeting.
George Erichsen, director of MetCom, disagreed with that assessment, and said in an interview on Tuesday that MetCom “is on schedule” and has completed work on three phases of the Patuxent Park project, and is scheduled to start work on the fourth phase this year along Midway Drive and Yorktown Road.
In an interview, Deatrick said that transferring the funding will allow public works to realign its schedule with MetCom’s, reflecting changes in the project’s schedule discussed last November, he said.
The reallocation does not impede funding public works’ design of the final phase of the project, for which a bid will be awarded in the spring, Deatrick said.
Erichsen noted that MetCom and the commissioners meet twice a year to go over project timelines, with the next joint meeting being Nov. 13. MetCom discussed pre-construction for the next phase of the project on Wednesday. The budget amendment does not affect MetCom’s work on the project, he said.
Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) noted that the money “can’t be used at the present time” for Patuxent Park because of the delay, and added that the reallocation does not mean Patuxent Park residents are being abandoned. The funding “will be recycled and come back to them in the future,” he said.
Commissioner John O’Connor (R) said that public works is “putting [the funding] to work rather than letting it sit there.”
The airport expansion, estimated to cost $13.4 million, is meant to create jobs and will allow the airport to accommodate larger aircraft, as well as bring the taxiway into compliance with Federal Aviation Administration standards, which have changed since the airport was first built around 40 years ago. Construction is expected to continue past 2021.
A joint initiative between public works and MetCom, the Patuxent Park revitalization project aims to replace the over 70-year-old sewer and water system, and includes improvements to the storm drainage system, sidewalks and roadways.
Road replacement work for Patuxent Park began in 2009 and was supposed to take six years. Initially expected to cost $9 million, the project is now budgeted at $13 million.
Patuxent Park residents have reached out to Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R) “several times about what they’re going through,” he said Tuesday.
“They know there’s a little bit of pain to get some gain, but this gain is taking awhile,” he said.
Deatrick said the contractor hired by public works is “ahead of schedule” for the department’s third phase of the project, which includes construction on Saratoga Drive, part of Midway Drive, part of North Essex Drive, Wasp Drive and Card Road. Repaving Midway Drive should be completed by Easter, Deatrick said, around the time it was already scheduled for completion.
Deatrick said in an interview the Patuxent Park project could be completed by spring 2021.