About a month ago, County Executive Ike Leggett issued a historic line-item veto, drawing a line in the sand between himself and some members of the Montgomery County Council on the future of stormwater-management contracts. Tuesday the Council came to a compromise.
On Tuesday, the County Council unanimously approved two bills as a compromise between the County Executive and some members of the County Council.
While some members of the Council objected to Leggett’s proposed changes to stormwater-management contracting, which would consolidate the design, build and maintain contracts for stormwater management into one contract, the Council came to a deal with the County Executive.
The compromise the Council approved Tuesday will allow the Department of Environmental Protection to do a test run of Leggett’s proposed contracting change in exchange for the Council gaining greater oversight over stormwater-management projects.
“I am pleased that the County Council signaled its intent to approve the reform of our stormwater-management-construction program, which will enhance our ability to meet important environmental goals and will support projects designed to meet our State-mandated MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) permit,” Leggett had previously said in a statement.
In addition, the bill reduces the funding for stormwater projects, from $43.2 million in fiscal year 2019 to $20 million as a test run for Leggett’s proposal.
This increased oversight will allow the Council to have more control over stormwater projects, through getting quarterly reports from DEP. In addition, the Council can allocate additional funding for projects, and will require DEP officials to consult with advisory groups on the projects.
While environmentalists said they are not against Leggett’s proposal to shift bids to design, build and maintain stormwater projects to one contractor, the worry is that companies will not prioritize their environmental concerns.
Stormwater Partners Network, a coalition of environmental groups, have voiced their concerns about Leggett’s plan to reform stormwater-management contracts and the compromise the Council reached with him, saying the compromise bill does not meet their concerns with Leggett’s plan.
“However, the veto override is not enough to maintain the progress that’s necessary to better protect county residents and streams from stormwater pollution,” the group said in a joint statement. “Stormwater pollution and flooding will only get worse as the climate continues to change, so we intend to keep fighting.”
In June, for the first time in his tenure as County Executive, Leggett issued a line-item veto on the capital budget. The line-item veto came after the Council decided to not implement his reforms to contracting.
While Leggett said his reforms to contracting would save money, some members of the Council said they were skeptical of the changes, given they were not given enough time to review them to make sure they still meet necessary environmental standards.
Some environmental groups criticized Leggett’s proposal, saying they worried that the changes would privatize the County’s stormwater-management system so that companies would be motivated by profit over environmental concerns. With his line-item veto, Leggett pushed back against criticism, saying his proposal was not an attempt to privatize stormwater management.
“This was not ‘privatization.’ DEP will continue to have control over the projects undertaken, oversight, and community engagement,” Leggett wrote in his letter to County Council President Hans Riemer.