A road extension in Lexington Park has been given an additional year for construction, and the county commissioners in a split vote on Tuesday agreed to fund an overage after the project turned out to cost more than expected.
The Maryland Department of Community Development, a nonprofit agency that leverages government funds to build infrastructure, awarded St. Mary’s County $343,000 to extend Rogers Drive to Willows Road in Lexington Park. The project is identified in the Lexington Park Master Plan as a crime reduction measure and meets the national objective of benefiting low- and moderate-income households in the area.
Law enforcement, churches and residents in the Colony Square community have attested to the importance of this project as a quality of life issue, according to meeting documents. The 350-foot road would be built between two properties along Willows Road, owned by the Lexington Park Baptist Church and RPM Homes Inc.
The community development block grant award to the county requires a nonprofit partner, and so the Community Development Corporation is acting as the project contractor. The CDC has also contributed approximately $100,000 in cash and in-kind services. County government has waived $9,000 in fees. Pat Mudd, chairman of the CDC, said Tuesday at the county commissioners’ meeting that he wants to finish what was started in 2016.
“The reason we are here is because we want to complete the construction of Rogers Drive … it’s a road that will connect the heavily developed part of Lexington Park, provide vehicular and pedestrian access on that part of town out to Willows Road and to Lancaster Park,” he said, adding that they have gone through all the steps required by the state.
Construction bids came in over budget, leaving the project at $150,000 short for completion. At the direction of the state grant administrators, the CDC, along with staff from the county’s department of aging and human services, reviewed the bids with the county’s department of public works and transportation.
Significant reasons for the higher than estimated bids include the requirement of federal highway construction pay scales for all roadwork, the inability to store construction equipment on-site overnight and the discovery of wetlands on the property by state inspectors after state and local permits were issued, adding $10,000 in unanticipated costs. While other avenues have been considered to cover the deficit, bonds and private resources are not available. The state had approved a one-year extension to the end of August 2020 for the construction of Rogers Drive. If it is not constructed within that period, the state can require the county to repay the $126,804 already spent on the engineer and approvals obtained. Not completing construction would additionally jeopardize the county’s future requests for the community development block grant funds.
According to Mudd, when the project came in over budget, the department went to the state for the funds but was directed to the county’s department of public works and transportation. When that department said they did not have money to spare, the state recommended asking county commissioners for the $150,000 needed to complete the project.
“Well, if we tell you no, what are they going to tell you? Are they going to give it to you?” Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R) asked.
“If you tell us no, then we will pass that information over to the state, and we’ll see what happens after that,” Mudd replied.
“I see construction equipment stored all the time up the road in District Heights … the crime rate there in quadruple what it is here. The issues down there aren’t that bad, relatively speaking … they are just trying to get extra money,” Commissioner John O’Connor (R) said of the contractor’s claim to not being able to store construction equipment on site.
He said he believed that if commissioners say no then the state will award at least some money for the extension.
“To say yes now is just giving all the other partners in it an easy way out,” O’Connor said.
Commissioner Eric Colvin (R) asked if there was still time and county staff confirmed that the grant expires in August and construction must be complete by then. In a 3-2 vote with Colvin and O’Connor voting against, the additional funds in the amount of $150,000 to Maryland Community Development Block Grant for the construction of Rogers Drive and also the related budget amendment was approved, decreasing funds from the commissioners’ emergency reserve.