Municipalities mull next steps after losing out on funding for lights near Metro, public works building -- Gazette.Net



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Capitol Heights resident Donald Ayers had one word to describe the lighting on his trips to and from the Capitol Heights Metro.

Sparse.“You might find a light post every 100 feet,” said Ayers, 65, as his electric wheelchair made the ascent up the Sultan Avenue hill on Monday. “Why can’t there be a light post every 50 feet?”

The town of Capitol Heights tried to get state funds in April to better light Ayers’ path, but is one of two central Prince George’s County municipalities that missed out on getting any state money for improvement projects.

Capitol Heights did not get the $150,000 state bond bill it requested through the Maryland General Assembly for street light enhancements for paths leading to the Capitol Heights Metro Station, and Seat Pleasant did not receive its $500,000 bond bill request to upgrade its public works facility, according to the Maryland General Assembly website.

State bond bills are monies set aside for jurisdictions to complete community improvement projects and require applicants to put up some form of matching funds.

The money Capitol Heights requested would have gone toward getting energy-efficient lamp posts to reduce energy costs and add more bright lights to make it safer to walk on streets adjacent to the Metro station, such as Capitol Heights Boulevard, Emmet Street and Quire Avenue, said Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth, Capitol Heights’ town administrator.

The Capitol Heights Metro Station ranked sixth out of the top 10 Metro stations in Maryland for crime, with 45 incidents in 2011, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Security Report released in March.

The Suitland Metro station was No. 1 with 60 incidents.

Bailey-Hedgepeth said the town pays $60,000 per year in utility costs with the current street lights. In the meantime, Bailey-Hedgepeth said during fiscal 2013, which begins July 1, she will seek out companies that can do an energy audit of the town’s lights and give suggestions on what lights will reduce utility costs. She said the town will continue to seek any grant money that’s available for the project and will put in the same bond bill request next year.

“We’re disappointed, but we’ll be able to continue to move forward,” Bailey-Hedgepeth said. “We wanted to put something in to be on the state’s radar.”

In Seat Pleasant, the goal was to repair a leaky roof and build out the existing 47-year-old public works facility to accommodate larger vehicles and the employees who have to stay for longer periods in the cases of storm cleanups, said Seat Pleasant City Administrator Vincent Jones.

Jones said if the city doesn’t get the upgrades needed to accommodate employees, they will look into other sites where employees can work. One site is city-owned and another is not, but Jones declined to list locations because no official agreements have been drawn up for their use. There are 13 full-time public works employees who work out of the public works facility, which sits behind City Hall at 6301 Addison Road, Jones said. The city will look into whether there are federal, state or private monies it can apply for to complete the project, Jones said.

“While we’re disappointed that we didn’t receive the state funds, we understand resources are limited, and we will try to make sure that we get the improvements that we need with the resources that we have,” Jones said.

There were $34.4 million in requests and $19.7 million awarded statewide for the 2012 legislative session, said Kaitlyn Shulman, an analyst for the Maryland State House of Delegates appropriations committee.

Del. Michael Vaughn (D-Dist. 24) of Mitchellville, who represents Capitol Heights, Glenarden and Seat Pleasant, said he normally does not receive specific explanations for why some projects get funded and others do not.

He said he and fellow Dels. Carolyn J. B. Howard (D-Dist. 24) and Tiffany Alston (D-Dist. 24), both of Mitchellville, signed off on the requests for both municipalities. However, he said it’s possible Capitol Heights’ project did not fit in the scope of a “capital project” because those typically are for new building construction or a building renovation.

Vaughn said, in general, the best advice he could give to any group or municipality requesting a bond bill is to make sure they have funds to match what they’re requesting and that the project is “shovel-ready,” meaning there’s a contractor in place and all that’s left is the funding piece.

nmcgill@gazette.net