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Open space a top priority in Montgomery County

Commissioners OK money for improvements at parks, trails

NORRISTOWN, Pa. - The Montgomery County commissioners on Thursday passed an open space fund budget, which focused on improvements for preserving county space, trails and parks from 2013 through 2017.

With the open space plan, there will be trail resurfacing, signage, and basic maintenance for the parks. The budget highlights a county park improvement project, trail project, Mill Grove, municipal and private organization projects and farmland preservation as main expenditures for the county. Some $1.5 million will be available in 2013 for farmland preservation.

"The vast majority of these funds would be dedicated to properties already owned by the county, county aspects and infrastructure," said Uri Monson, the county's chief financial officer.

As part of the county trail projects, Montgomery County will be focusing on the Chester Valley Trail, Pennypack Trail, Schuylkill River Trail and other capital improvements and resurfacing, at a total of around $5 million for 2013.

The 2013 budget includes $11 million in total expenditures, of which around $6.9 million are out of county funds. The entire 5-year plan sets expenditures at $18.4 million; $10.2 million of which are county funds. The county will not need to borrow additional money for these projects; monies left over from previous open space projects are being utilized.

"[The budget] does leave a half-million dollars for new open space projects as they are presented to us," said Vice Chairwoman Leslie S. Richards.

The Montgomery County commissioners said they are shifting their priorities from the former commissioners, focusing on investing in county assets and spending tax dollars wisely and carefully.

"We're able to maintain our commitment to something so vitally important to the people of Montgomery County, and that is our parks, and trails and open spaces, while at the same time investing their tax dollars wisely," Chairman Joshua Shapiro stated. The 2013 open space budget was adopted unanimously.

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