The Calvert County commissioners have agreed to move forward with plans to construct a $1.3 million building in a Prince Frederick area industrial park to house and service county vehicles.

Tuesday's decision came after a public hearing that had been scheduled so that the county would be eligible to apply for a state grant that will cover about half of the project's costs.

County officials expressed confidence that the Maryland Transit Administration will come up with the funding, even though state transportation officials in September told the past Board of Commissioners that money was scarce for projects because of the projected state budget shortfall. The revenue scarcity forced state officials to halt the county's current top priority in road projects, the widening of Route 2/4 through Prince Frederick, with specific improvements at Route 231.

However, a new building to house county vehicles has been in the works for some time, and the state has already pledged its share of funds, according to county officials.

"They assure us the money is there," Sherrod Sturrock, the county's capital projects coordinator, told the commissioners Tuesday.

County commissioners expressed support for the project and praised county staffers for lowering the projected price by about $500,000.

"Thank you very much for bringing this down to a number that's manageable," Commissioner Linda L. Kelley (R-At Large) said.

The proposed facility is in the final stages of design, according to a memo from Doyle E. Cox, the county's transportation services supervisor.

It will be located on Schooner Lane in the Calvert Industrial Park on a six-acre property, Cox wrote. The 11,700-square-foot building will serve both the Public Transportation and Fleet Maintenance divisions.

The state will fund 90 percent of the cost, with a total grant request of $683,275, Cox added. The county's portion of the project is $581,470, which is in the fiscal year 2003 capital budget.

At the public hearing Tuesday, county staffers told the commissioners that the project has been in the planning stages for years. In March 1999, according to one official, a study found that county's existing storage facilities, as well as staff to oversee the equipment, were inadequate, with only two buildings to service more than 200 vehicles.

A subsequent report by county staffers in September of that year suggested the construction of a new, centrally located facility. However, the matter was studied again after a citizens advisory committee suggested that instead of building a new facility, the county retrofit the Appeal recycling center and house the fleet there. But in April 2001, the county's newly hired fleet maintenance division chief asked the commissioners to build a new facility.

County staffers came up with the current plan, which will involve Fleet and Transportation vehicles being housed in the new facility at the industrial park, and Highway Maintenance staying in the current garage in Barstow.

Assuming the state comes up with the necessary funding, county officials hope to award the general contract for the project in March, with construction beginning in April and completion by December.

After that, a contract for renovating the Barstow facility would be awarded next January, according to county officials, with the project completed in May 2004.