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District 14 lawmakers bring home ‘record funding’ for capital projects

by Judith Hruz


    State lawmakers brought home a staggering amount of funding — $43 million — for capital projects from this year’s session of the General Assembly, including $11 million for Olney Theatre Center.

    “This is record funding,” said Sen. Craig J. Zucker (D-Dist. 14) of Brookeville, chair of the Capital Budget Subcommittee, who said District 14 legislators worked with each other, neighboring District 19 lawmakers and other legislators to secure the money.

    “It was a team effort. We wanted to make sure we worked with our colleagues to deliver for District 14,” he said. “The community deserves it.”

    Olney Theatre Center (OTC) Managing Director Debbie Ellinghaus said the funding gets OTC much closer to what theater officials hope to accomplish on the campus of the critically and popularly acclaimed entertainment venue.

    “We’re so thrilled,” said Ellinghaus.

    With an initial budget of $25 million, theater officials realized that amount does not cover what they hope to do to improve the campus.

    The additional $11 million in capital funding, along with an additional $500,000 from Gov. Larry Hogan in his budget, will allow Olney Theatre to renovate the 1938 theater space and back-of-the-house amenities such as the costume and scene shops, make exterior improvements, add new educational classrooms and perhaps more.

    Returning to live theater has been extraordinarily challenging, Ellinghaus said. Funding has been greatly impacted.

    Live performance venues were among the last to get the go-ahead to reopen during the pandemic.

    “We are still suffering,” she said.

    OTC canceled its Applause Series performances of “Brigadoon” April 8-10 due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests in the performing company.

The new capital funding from the state “will help us accomplish our goals,” Ellinghaus said.

    Capital improvement funds will also help another long-planned project.

    Thanks to the efforts of the District 14 and District 19 legislators, the Bowie Mill Bikeway Project, which will ultimately connect Olney to the Shady Grove Metro Station, will receive $1.5 million.

    “We’re thrilled,” said Danny Rubenstein, who has championed the project for some eight or nine years. “There’s no other way to put it.”

Right now, the Bowie Mill Road Bikeway Project would be a fully-separated, 3.3-mile bikeway connecting Route 108 to Muncaster Mill Road (Route 115).

When built, it would connect Olney Town Center with the Shady Grove Metro Station, and in its path would be two schools, the Intercounty Connector Trail and parks.

    Rubenstein, the Greater Olney Civic Association’s special projects coordinator for the bikeway, has been pushing to move funding forward in the county budget.

No county funding is scheduled in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which begins in July. Funding to build the bike path is not scheduled until Fiscal Year 2028 and the project would not be finished until fiscal 2029 – some 15 years after it was first proposed.

The county is considering moving that schedule forward one year.

Rubenstein said he appreciates the efforts of Zucker, Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Dist. 14) and County Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large).

Other pedestrian/transportation projects to get money are a sidewalk to James Hubert Blake High School, $4 million; the Norwood Road sidewalk in Sandy Spring, $2 million; pedestrian upgrades at Oak Drive and Ridge Road (Maryland Route 27) in Damascus, $1 million; and a bike facility at Cherry Hill Road, $4 million.

Pedestrian upgrades for the Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, $2 million; and another $2 million for the same project in fiscal year 2024.

In addition to Olney Theatre Center, other community projects to get funds include:

Community Services for Autistic Adults & Children facility (District 39), $2.35 million;

East County Food Storage, 100,000;

Sandy Spring Museum, $250,000; and

Friends House Retirement Community, $250,000.

Public Safety and Health projects include:

Laytonsvillle District Volunteer Fire Department new brush truck, $150,000;

Olney Satellite Police Station and Community Building, $1 million;

Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department fire truck, $1 million; and

MedStar Montgomery Medical Center, $1 million.

Parks, recreation and land preservation projects in District 14 will get funds as follows:

Greenwood Local Park, $250,000;

Laytonsville Local Park, $150,000;

McKnew Local Park, $250,000;

Burtonsville Elementary School outside renovation, $150,000;

Olney Boys and Girls Club stadium for Cropdusters baseball team, $1 million;

Olney Boys and Girls Club performance sports center, $250,000;

Olney Family Neighborhood Park, $125,000; and

Olney Mill Neighborhood Park, $150,000.

Housing and Community Development projects in District 14 include:

Burtonsville Crossing Shopping Center, $5 million.

Education projects include:

Montgomery County Public Schools playground improvements, $1.2 million; and

Westover Elementary School, $635,000.

The State Senate preauthorized funding for several local projects for fiscal year 2024.

They include:

Montgomery College East County expansion, $2;

Montgomery County Public Schools playgrounds, $1.35 million;

Olney Boys and Girls Club performance sports center, $1.5 million;

Sandy Spring Museum, $1.5 million; and

Town of Brookeville Market Street improvements, $500,000.

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