Sunday, May 27, 2012

$4,143,000 boat ramp?

By Wednesday, the fiscal 2013 budget will get its final approval. Despite all the empty talk about trimming millions from this budget, the County Council cut a mere $3.9 million. Last week, it appeared that they would slash a taxpayer funded boat ramp at Ft Smallwood Park. Unfortunately, the $4,143,000 project remained in the budget. Now, they must provide answers about why they rubber-stamped such an egregious purchase. No doubt, we face tough economic times. Moreover, county workers can breathe a sigh of relief that they won't get furloughed next year. Nonetheless, it's clear the County Executive and the County Council cannot differentiate between luxuries and necessities. After all, how does this boat ramp benefit the majority of out populous? Really, it does not in any way. In reality, Leopold has silently advanced this project for years. Ironically, this has emerged as a priority for a segment of the population that consistently decries government spending and tax increases. Of course, they somehow feel entitled to free usage of a boat ramp. Thus, combined with state and federal grants, the county has approved this multi-million dollar project. Meantime back in 2011, Worcester County removed an old two lane boat ramp in West Ocean City and replaced it with a facility complete complete with a bulkhead, fixed piers and floating docks. In all, the project cost a mere $450,000. Therefore, one must ask why a smaller scale project in Anne Arundel County contains a price tag almost ten times more. Seriously, if the county wants to throw a bone to the tea partiers on yachts, then why don't they just lease an existing ramp in North County? Certainly, many of these cash strapped community associations would welcome an influx of $10,000 to $20,000 a year. Then, they would provide the required annual maintenance as they have always done before. In other words, this means the county assumes limited responsibility in the upkeep of the ramp. Keep in mind, the City of Baltimore owns Ft Smallwood Park. In turn, Anne Arundel County signed a 30 year lease of the property for a nominal fee. Under their control the park has transformed from a place that provided a safe haven for drug use to a beautiful, family-oriented property. Still, how much should taxpayers invest in a park that Baltimore City could elect to reclaim once the lease ends? Armed with these factors, county leaders must bring this idea back to the drawing board. Even if it gets approved, there's no obligation to go through with the expenditure. Besides, if they do, they can no longer portray themselves as responsible stewards of our tax dollars.