Lawmakers slam Montgomery County executives, Metro over transit center

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Local,Maryland,Transportation,Kate Jacobson,Metro,Montgomery County

Montgomery County Council members lashed out at county officials charged with fixing the beleaguered, $120 million Silver Spring Transit Center for withholding a letter from Metro saying it would not take over the center because of its problems.

County officials said Metro has not been cooperative in plans to fix the structure, and decided not to show the council the letter until they determined what the letter meant.

County Director of General Services David Dise received a letter on April 12 from Robert Troup, deputy general manager of operations at Metro, notifying the county it would not accept, operate or maintain the center in its current state, as planned.

Funds for investigation approved
A Montgomery County Council committee approved allocating $100,000 to help pay for an investigation into the mishaps of the Silver Spring Transit Center. The Government Operations Committee approved putting the funds on the county's budget reconciliation list for fiscal 2014, and would be given to county Inspector General Ed Blansitt to hire outside help to investigate the center.

Dise said Metro is legally bound to the center through a memorandum of understanding signed with the county. If Metro is unhappy with the county's remediation plans, he said, it has 15 business days to respond with its own comments.

Dise also said Metro has been uncooperative in meeting with the county to discuss fixes, though the county has invited Metro to all meetings about the center.

"The obligation for both parties is to develop an acceptable remediation plan," Dise said. "None of this should be difficult, we simply need [Metro's] attention."

County Attorney Marc Hansen declined to speculate whether the county would take legal action against Metro, but did say it was possible.

In a statement late Wednesday afternoon, Metro said it has been an active partner throughout the project, and will maintain that role.

The letter from Metro was not given to the council and was not released publicly, so council members learned about it from the Washington Post on April 26.

The council called a special meeting with County Executive Ike Leggett and county staff. Leggett did not attend the meeting. Instead he attended a science and math event at Banneker Middle School in Burtonsville, and sent Dise and Chief Administrative Officer Tim Firestine in his place. The executive staff explained they did not release the letter because they were unsure what the letter meant.

President Nancy Navarro, D-Eastern County, blasted Leggett for not attending the meeting, saying the council would have moved the meeting to accommodate his schedule.

Councilman Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, criticized Dise and Firestine for not making the letter available when they received it. He also criticized Metro for not moving forward with the county to create a plan to fix the center.

"It is unacceptable for them to wash their hands of this matter at this time as if they have no responsibility," Berliner said. "I see no basis for them to successfully walk [away from the project] and I find it totally irresponsible."

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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