Saturday, March 12, 2016
Will County Council vote on Westbard plan before knowing true cost of Willett Branch naturalization?
Adding to the confusion, is that the Montgomery County Council staff report is quite skeptical that the potential cost has been adequately estimated yet. It does in one place cite the $4-6 million figure, but conditions that by saying many of the total expenses involved "are currently unknown and difficult to estimate."
In a note on page 12 of the report, it is further stated that the County Department of Environmental Protection "advised M-NCPPC that providing stormwater management during the redevelopment process is top priority before initiating channel daylighting and naturalization. Currently, the stream flows underground through private property and enters a concrete trapezoidal channel. To property naturalize the channel, the watershed would require significant stormwater management and establishing proper stream buffers to allow the stream to function more naturally. This effort is very expensive and is Iong-term vision for this area. DEP is not able to project a financial impact at this time. M-NCPPC would need to acquire the property or place conditions on development to acquire the stream buffer and establish 100-year floodplain boundaries. This process would take years and likely require significant utility relocation. This is a significant effort and the fiscal impact is dependent upon the redevelopment process."
This is not to say, by any means, that the naturalization project should not go forward. And we know that few capital projects end up costing less than expected, rather than more.
But one of dozens of things to watch in the coming weeks, is whether the Council votes on a plan without doing its due diligence in providing itself and the public with the true costs the plan will obligate the taxpayers to fund. Even a gorilla can raise his hand to vote yes or no, without knowing the implications. We're paying these folks six figures to do their homework, and act in a professional manner.
Suffice it to say, a department declaring a project "very expensive," but failing to present an itemized, highly-detailed budget estimate, does not inspire confidence that we know $4-6 million will be the true cost.