What’s on the ballot: Prince George’s Co. voters weigh in on 5 bond issues

When voters in Prince George’s County, Maryland, fill out their ballots this year, they will weigh in on five questions that, if approved, would clear the way for the county to issue bonds and borrow money to the tune of more than half a billion dollars to finance county projects.

Among the projects county leaders are promoting is a new mental health and addiction-care facility, which is part of a $133 million bond for building projects.

The other bond issues include $178.15 million for public works and transportation projects; $28.83 million for library design and construction; $44.48 million for police and fire department facilities; and $121.7 million for community college facilities.

All told, the bond issues on the ballot total more than $506 million.

Approval by the voters would allow the county to move forward with issuing bonds to pay for projects, which are detailed in the county’s five-year 2021-2026 capital budget plan.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said the $20 million mental health facility, which is part of the county building bond question, is “desperately” needed.

“Prince George’s County, unfortunately, has been a behavioral health desert, which means that we, right now in these hospital facilities around the county, are at capacity in terms of our mental health beds,” she told WTOP.

And demand for hospital beds has only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, she added.

As it stands now, many people facing mental health and addiction challenges only get help in jail or prison. About 70% of people arrested in the county are intoxicated when they arrive at the Department of Corrections, and about a third of people arrested have mental health conditions.

“This is unethical and inhumane,” Alsobrooks said, adding that the proposed mental health facility would allow the county to treat people with dignity.

Alsobrooks said the county is looking to get the facility up and running within the next year and a half if the funding is in place.

The funding was originally earmarked for expanding a Prince George’s County Police Department training facility.

In Prince George’s County, bond issues are routine and are almost always approved by voters by large margins.

In fact, a review of past election results and newspaper archives indicates the last time voters rejected a bond issue in the county was in the early 1980s, when voters nixed a bond for an underground garage in Hyattsville.

Read more about the bond issues and the projects they would finance below.


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Question A: Public Works and Transportation Projects

Question A is a $178.15 million bond issue for public works and transportation projects.

Below are some of the projects as described in the capital budget plan.

Addison Road: Reconstructing Addison Road from Walker Mill Road to MD 214. Improvements will include roadway widening, the construction of crosswalks, sidewalks, landscaping and more. This project will improve traffic flows, increase traffic safety in the area and provide better access to the Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Metro station.

Auth Road: Reconstructing Auth Road from the new Metro Access Road to Allentown Road. This project will add capacity, add bike lanes, resolve storm drainage problems and enhance pedestrian access and safety. The county says that continuing growth in traffic related to the nearby Metro station requires improvements along Auth Road.

Bridge rehabilitation: Many county bridges require substructure and/or superstructure enhancements to bring them to operational and functional standards. Fiscal year 2021 funding is budgeted for the Bridge Preservation Program, Harry S. Truman Drive Bridge and the Molly Berry Road Bridge.

Bridge replacement — Oxon Hill Road: Oxon Hill Road over Henson Creek is due for a replacement, but because of other bridge projects, it remains beyond the six years covered by the capital budget. Interim minor repairs to joint and approaches will be done.

Bridge replacement — Sunnyside Avenue: The Sunnyside Avenue Bridge over Indian Creek is within the State Highway Administration’s MD 201 study limits and the design of the bridge is being coordinated with the SHA’s MD 201 project. However, right of way, wetlands mitigation and roadway reconstruction beyond the bridge and approach limits are anticipated to be 100% county-funded. Delays in utility relocation have pushed back the project’s completion.

Bridge replacement — Temple Hill Road: This project replaces the existing structure over Pea Hill Branch with a larger, wider and higher structure. The replacement bridge will be 36 feet long and 68 feet wide to improve vehicle safety and to accommodate pedestrians and bicycles. The existing 16-foot-long-by-22-foot-wide structure, made of steel and concrete, carries Temple Hill Road over Pea Hill Branch. The narrow width of the structure has resulted in frequent vehicle collisions with the traffic barrier, causing significant damage to the superstructure. The existing structure is in poor condition and needs to be replaced. The project has been delayed due to the inability to issue a contract. Temporary repairs were completed.

Bridge replacement — Varnum Street: This project consists of replacing the Varnum Street Bridge over the Edmonston Road Channel. The original bridge was built in 1958 and reconstructed in 1982. Roadway rehabilitation beyond the bridge and approach limits are anticipated to be county- and municipal-funded.

Church Road improvements: This project provides safety improvements to Church Road between Woodmore Road and MD 214 (Central Avenue). Improvements will include intersection improvements, local realignment of the roadway and the addition of shoulders and roadside drainage where necessary.

Developer contribution projects: This project provides funding for a variety of street improvements necessitated by new development. In fiscal 2021, construction funding is budgeted for the Oak Grove Road/Church Road interchange roadway improvement.

Pedestrian safety improvements: “Schools Access Projects” continue. Marlboro Pike phase one will continue on Race Track Road and Stuart Lane. Capital BikeShare work will continue. The Department of Public Works and Transportation will continue conducting pedestrian road safety audits to identify critical pedestrian safety issues and offer solutions.

Town of Upper Marlboro: This project is for the revitalization of downtown Upper Marlboro to include roadways, sidewalks, visitors center, building facades and streetscape improvements. The justification is that these improvements are needed to attract new business to the downtown area. The Department of Public Works and Transportation is working with the Town of Upper Marlboro to utilize this funding.

Question B: Library Projects

Question B is a nearly $28.83 million bond issue to finance the design and construction of library projects.

Below are some of the projects as detailed in the county’s 2021-2026 capital budget.

Baden Library rehabilitation: This project provides for the renovation of an existing building to become the new Baden Branch Library to replace the existing facility located in Baden Elementary School. The new library is warranted to meet the needs of the growing community.

Bladensburg Branch Library replacement: This project provides for the design and construction of a new branch library to replace the existing one. The new facility will be approximately 24,000 square feet. The justification is that the existing branch is housed in a renovated school that dates to 1925. According to a 2010 independent facility assessment, the facility has reached the end of its useful life.

Brandywine Branch Library — new construction: This project provides for a new branch library in the Brandywine area. The new facility will be approximately 35,000 square feet. Brandywine is a part of the county showing rapid residential growth. An existing parcel of county-owned land has been set aside for this project.

Hillcrest Heights Branch Library replacement: This project provides for the design and construction of a new branch library to replace the existing one. The new facility will be approximately 25,000 square feet. The existing branch was built in 1976 and is only 9,466 square feet, which is inadequate to meet the needs of the community and its population.

Hyattsville Branch Library renovations: The project consists of finishing the building a new Hyattsville Branch Library on the existing site. The new one-story facility will be 40,000 square feet with additional study rooms and community meeting space, as well as a parking garage. It is expected to open in spring of 2021. The intention is also to provide emergency power for a portion of the building so that it can be used as a cooling/warming shelter in the event of catastrophic weather. The original facility, constructed in 1964, had multiple mechanical, electrical, plumbing and HVAC issues, as well as issues complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This branch is one of the busiest in the county, and its failing infrastructure could no longer support the new technologies demanded by the community.

Langley Park Branch Library — new construction: This project provides for the design and construction of a new branch library. The new facility will be approximately 40,000 square feet and include office and meeting space for local community organizations. The community’s existing library services are not adequate to serve the current population. Construction is expected to begin in fiscal 2023.

Surratts-Clinton Branch Library rehabilitation: This project consists of renovating the existing space to create multiple study rooms, a separate teen learning area and a separate children’s room with interactive learning features. The HVAC, restrooms, ceiling and furnishings are in need of refurbishment. The Surratts-Clinton Branch Library has had no major renovations since its construction in 1980. Construction for the Surratts-Clinton Branch Renovation will continue in fiscal 2021 and is expected to be completed in fiscal 2022.

Library branch renovations: This project provides for systemic improvements of existing branches.

Question C: Public Safety Facilities

Question C is a nearly $44.48 million bond issue to finance construction projects at public safety and fire department facilities.

Below are the projects as described in the county’s 2021-2026 capital budget.

District 4 Police Station: This project will involve constructing a new District 4 police facility in proximity to the National Harbor and Tanger Outlets in Oxon Hill. This site has been determined to potentially and effectively serve a community that is increasingly transient and reliant on immediate police services. This station is planned to be located on Clipper Way and joined with the Oxon Hill Fire Station on a shared public safety complex.

District 5 Police Station: This project consists of a newly-constructed police station to upgrade and relocate the existing district station on Brandywine Road in Clinton. The new station will be located along the southern portion of the Route 301 corridor and will be approximately 18,000 square feet and contain sufficient space for both police and administrative functions. The justification is that the existing District 5 Station was built in 1964 and needs to be upgraded to accommodate the required staffing.

Allentown Fire EMS Station No. 832: This project provides funding to complete a major renovation of the existing facility constructed in 1950. This facility currently houses a basic life support ambulance, engine, ladder truck and brush unit. Issues such as aging electrical and mechanical systems plague the station, with significant ongoing expenses for maintenance. Additional improvements such as energy efficiency improvements, security improvements, disaster resilience and technologies to improve response time will be included.

Apparatus Maintenance Facility replacement: This new facility would consist of a 20,000-square-foot building that would include a bay area to accommodate fire apparatus repairs, a breathing air maintenance repair shop, parts storage and administrative offices. The ideal location would be centrally located in the county and provide a secure and adequate area to park numerous apparatus in various states of repair outside.

Beechtree Fire/EMS Station replacement: This project provides funding for a new three-bay fire/EMS station, which will house an engine, an ambulance and a future special service. The station will include an alerting system designed to reduce response times; an exercise room; separate male and female sleeping/locker rooms; office space; an emergency generator; and a training room. This station will improve fire/EMS response times along the Route 301 corridor between Bowie and Upper Marlboro, which are currently at unacceptable levels.

Beltsville Fire/EMS Station No. 83: This project consists of replacing the existing station with a new four-bay fire/EMS station, which will house two engines, an aerial truck, a brush unit, a basic life support ambulance and a battalion chief. The station will include an alerting system designed to reduce response times; an exercise room; separate male and female sleeping/locker rooms; office space; an emergency generator; and a training room. The justification is that this project will replace the existing station that was built in 1950. The current facility provides inadequate space for modern apparatus and leaves little margin for error when vehicles are entering and leaving the facility.

Berwyn Heights Fire/EMS Station No. 814: This project provides funding to complete a major renovation of the existing facility constructed in 1968. This facility currently houses a basic life support ambulance, a ladder truck and a rescue squad. This station is unable to adequately serve the current and anticipated staffing needs, male/female staffing accommodation and compliance with the Americans with Disability Act. Additional improvements such as energy efficiency improvements, security improvements, disaster resilience and technologies to improve response time will be included. The project was delayed to address debt affordability.

Chillum-Adelphi Fire/EMS Station No. 834: This project provides funding to complete a major renovation of the existing facility constructed in 1951. This facility currently houses a basic life support ambulance, an engine and a ladder truck. This is one of the busiest stations and needs significant improvements to accommodate service demand.

Greenbelt Fire/EMS Station No. 835: This project consists of replacing the existing station with a new three-bay fire/EMS station, which will house two engines, a basic life support ambulance and a brush truck. The new location will be in the vicinity of Greenbelt Road and Southway Road. The future relocation of the existing station to Greenbelt Road — either between Lakecrest Drive and the Baltimore Washington Parkway or on Southway between Greenbelt Road and Southway Court — would have a positive effect on fire emergency service delivery to the city of Greenbelt and surrounding communities.

Hyattsville Fire/EMS Station No. 80: This project consists of replacing the existing station with a new four-bay Fire/EMS station, which will house two engines, a BLS ambulance, a ladder truck and a rescue squad. The station will include an alert system designed to reduce response times; an exercise room; separate male and female sleeping/locker rooms; office space; an emergency generator; and a training room. The justification is that this project will replace the existing station that was built in 1959.

Konterra Fire/EMS Station: This project provides funding for a new three-bay fire/EMS station in the vicinity of Old Gunpowder Road and Van Dusen Road that will house an engine and an ambulance. Development in the southern Laurel area portion of the county will generate more demand for service. This project was delayed to address debt affordability.

Riverdale Fire/EMS Station No. 807 and No. 813: This project provides funding to construct a new fire station that will consolidate two existing stations. The proposed new station will be a four-bay design able to accommodate two ambulances, an engine and a ladder truck. This location is ideal to serve the surrounding communities currently served by both stations. This facility will replace two facilities that were constructed in 1937 and 1956, respectfully. This project was delayed to address debt affordability.

Shady Glen Fire/EMS Station: This project consists of constructing a new four-bay fire/EMS station, which will house an engine, an ambulance and a ladder truck. A prefabricated metal building will be constructed in the rear of the station, which will house the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) course for testing entry-level firefighter applicants. This station will improve fire/EMS response times along the Central Avenue corridor, which are currently at poor levels. Site clearing and permitting are complete and ready for construction process and bidding.

Fire station renovations: This project provides funding for designing and replacing electrical, mechanical, structural and plumbing systems at numerous fire/EMS stations throughout the county. Fiscal 2021 funding will support an Allentown kitchen renovation; an HVAC replacement at Oxon Hill; a Chillum No. 834 kitchen/dayroom renovation; a Chillum No. 844 new bay floor and new bay doors; a Forestville kitchen/dayroom renovation; and a Bowie kitchen/dayroom renovation.

County Detention Center housing renovations: This project will upgrade and refurbish the original 14 housing units in the County Detention Center. The cells in the housing units were designed for single occupancy. A surge in the inmate population required a conversion to double cells. The extra wear and tear on the facility created in part by the additional inmate population and the absences of any major improvements to date creates the need for this project. Fiscal 2021 funding supports phase two renovations to four housing units. Repairs will continue for the sprinkler system, flooring, light fixtures and plumbing.

Community Corrections Complex: The Community Corrections Complex is an expansion to house all the alternative-to-incarceration programs. The alternative-to-incarceration programs consist of the Home Detention, Pretrial Release Case Management, Drug Laboratory and the Community Service Program. The Community Corrections Complex project will begin in fiscal 2023.

Question D: County Buildings

Question D is a $133 million bond issue to finance construction and rehabilitation projects at county buildings.

A big chunk of that — $20 million — would go toward a new mental health and addiction-care facility in the county, under a proposal championed by County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

Below are the other projects as described in the county’s 2021-2026 capital budget.

Courthouse renovation and security upgrades: This project provides funding for renovations and repairs to county-owned properties. Projects planned for fiscal 2021 include: elevator upgrades, Americans with Disabilities Act modifications, roof system modifications and a feasibility study for a new multicultural center in the county that would hold events to promote inclusivity.

Regional Administration Building: The Regional Administration Building houses the Office of the County Executive and other agencies. This building will support transit-oriented development and easy access to other agencies within the county.

Shepherd’s Cove Women’s Shelters: This project provides for the expansion and retrofitting of existing housing for single women and families with children experiencing homelessness in Prince George’s County. The expanded and refurbished facility will allow the county to create a “community within a community” facility that leverages resources, improves service delivery, eliminates duplication of overhead and provides a significantly more integrated and functional system of care. The architect was set to start on the project in March 2020. Planning will continue in fiscal 2021.

Regional Health and Human Services Center: This project consists of a 100,000-to-120,000-square-foot administrative office building identified as Kingdom Square Mall, now known as the Hampton Park Project. The HHS building will serve as a centralized focal point for the delivery of services to older adults, persons with disabilities and family caregivers. The total project cost is estimated at $57 million, which consists of $32 million for land and building construction, $24 million in interior build out including furniture and $1 million in contingency to address market conditions and escalation.

Question E: Community College Facilities

Question E is a $121.7 million bond issue to help fund projects for Prince George’s County Community College facilities.

Below are the other projects as described in the county’s 2021-2026 capital budget.

Largo Student Center renovation: This project provides for a renovation and the construction of additional student services space. The building will be approximately 46 years old when construction begins, and it will be renovated to meet LEED Silver certification requirements. The primary goal of the project’s expansion is to transform the building into a facility with greater education and social offerings for students and the community, as well as to transform the Largo Student Center into a Gateway building. Design for the Largo Student Center renovations will continue in fiscal 2021.

Marlboro Hall renovation: This project provides funding to renovate 130,156 gross square feet of general classroom and faculty office. The college will incorporate technological innovations for modern classrooms and reconfigure space to correspond to current educational program demands. Infrastructure improvements include replacements of variable air volume boxes, plumbing risers and fixtures, lighting, floor tile and carpet. Construction on the renovations are set to begin in fiscal 2021 and expected to be completed in fiscal 2023.

College improvements: Other minor infrastructure projects

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