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Lehigh County to Continue Repairing Bridges and Preserving Open Space and Farmland

County Executive Cunningham outlines capital priorities for next five years

Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham said the county will continue its focus on repairing bridges and preserving open space and farmland as part of his Administration’s five-year capital plan.

During the last four years, Lehigh County has repaired or replaced 22 bridges, catching up on the neglected and closed bridges that existed four years ago. As part of his 2010-2014 Capital Plan, Cunningham proposes fixing an additional ten bridges in 2010, including the Pine Street Bridge over Lehigh River, Rex’s Covered Bridge over Jordan Creek and the Basin Street Bridge.

“When I took office four years ago, nearly two-thirds of the county’s 47 bridges had a deficiency rating or were closed,” Cunningham said. “Maintaining and improving public infrastructure is a core responsibility of government. I’m pleased to report that by the end of this year all of those closed bridges will be reopened and dozens of other bridges have been repaired.”

The annual county capital plan outlines the building, equipment, land and infrastructure needs of the county. The plan includes dozens of projects and a wide variety of funding sources, including state and federal funds and user fees, such as money from the cell phone surcharge.

This year’s five-year capital plan is much smaller than earlier years of the Cunningham Administration. It calls for a total of $76 million in spending during the next five years with a proposed $16.5 million for 2010, with more than half of that coming from state and federal funds.

“During the last four years, we have delivered the most extensive capital building and infrastructure improvement effort in Lehigh County’s history,” Cunningham said.  “We faced a tremendous backlog in capital needs to buildings, bridges and our open space efforts. Fortunately, we addressed that before the slow down in the economy. We’ve reaped the benefits of prudent planning and fast action.”

Along with the repair or replacement of 22 county bridges, during the last four years Lehigh County has completed or begun:

  • the construction of Coca-Cola Park and upgrades to the zoo and the Velodrome;
  • the renovation and expansion of the County Courthouse;
  • the relocation and upgrade of the 9-1-1 Communications Center;
  • the creation of a Central Booking Facility to process all arrests in the county;
  • a infusion of $12 million into our farmland and open space preservation and urban parks improvements;
  • the upgrade and integration of local police department information systems and start-up money for a Regional Crime Data Center;
  • energy savings projects at the Cedarbrook nursing homes and other county buildings that will reduce energy consumption by 20 percent;
  • the relocation of Domestic Relations;
  • and the start of a new Community Corrections Center and planning for a new Coroner’s facility.

“Reducing the proposed cost of the Lehigh County Courthouse upgrade and expansion by $20 million allowed the county to embark on a more wide-ranging and comprehensive capital plan to benefit a greater number of the residents and taxpayers of Lehigh County,” Cunningham said.

This year’s updated capital plan doesn’t include any new building projects but does continue Cunningham’s focus on open space, farmland preservation, parks and nature trails. Of the $16.5 million in projects scheduled for 2010, two-thirds of the allocation goes for bridges or open space preservation and parks projects.

The 2010 budget includes $5.1 million for bridges, with just $564,221 coming from county funds, and $5.9 for open space and farmland preservation and parks and walking trail developments, including $500,000 of county funds for the rehabilitation of Leaser Lake Dam in the northern part of the county.

The plan also continues retrofit work in county building to reduce energy consumption and utility costs. Lehigh County spends about $4 million on energy each year. The energy savings projects, including window replacements and HVAC system upgrades, are expected to cut energy consumption by 20 percent, which could translate to $1 million less in energy spending.

“We need to act now to reduce the energy we consume and the money we spend,” said Cunningham.

The total number of projects and dollar amounts are less than in previous years but the five-year plan retains its focus on maintaining public buildings and grounds and the infrastructure of the county, such as investing in information technology.

 “Although this plan is significantly less than previous years, we continue to fix what’s broken and use our money wisely to enhance the quality of life for Lehigh County residents and not push problems back for future leaders and taxpayers,” Cunningham said. 



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