Updated – 3:35 p.m. – After months of debate, the Montgomery County Council and County Executive Ike Leggett appear ready to compromise on how to handle the awarding of contracts for stormwater management projects in the future.

On Tuesday, council President Hans Riemer unveiled a new proposal that would implement Leggett’s plan to hire one contractor to design, build and maintain several stormwater projects. The proposal would also enable the council to appropriate additional money to the contractor if needed, create an environmental advisory group to provide input on those projects chosen for construction and require contractors to build projects seen as most beneficial to the environment.

The compromise, which will be formally voted on at a later date, is supported by both the council and Leggett and is expected to end a standoff between the legislative body and administration over about $43.2 million in funding for projects over the next six years. A public hearing on the compromise is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. July 10.

The county is required by the state to treat water runoff from a certain amount of acres of impervious surface under what’s known as a MS4 permit. Leggett issued a statement Tuesday saying he was pleased with the compromise. He said the council “signaled its intent to approve the reform of our stormwater construction program, which will enhance our ability to meet important environmental goals… .”

Leggett had previously proposed changing the stormwater contracting process to enable one contractor to design, build and maintain projects (known as a “DBM” contractor) to treat runoff from about 500 acres of impervious surface. He said this would provide a simplified process that would be more cost-effective after years of rising costs for stormwater projects.

The council disagreed with Leggett’s initial proposal and voted 5-4 to maintain the contracting method that’s been in place for more than five years. That method requires the hiring of different contractors to design, build and maintain each project. Council members who voted against Leggett’s change said they were concerned the county wouldn’t have proper input on which projects a contractor would choose to build, which could result in the construction of less environmentally beneficial projects.

The disagreement also played out behind the scenes with rank-and-file Department of Environmental Protection employees lobbying council members not to move forward with Leggett’s proposal.

Leggett’s change could lead to fewer bids for projects and thus less review, resulting in less work for the DEP employees.The council already approved a plan to not fill seven vacant positions at the department.

The employees and some council members also wanted to proceed with projects that had already been partially designed; work on those 44 projects had been suspended while the new contracting method was being debated.

Leggett later vetoed the council’s decision to maintain the current contracting method, in the first line-item veto used by a Montgomery County executive in more than two decades.

On Tuesday, the council had more than the six votes needed to override Leggett’s veto, with council members Sidney Katz and Craig Rice part of the 7-2 vote on a motion to override the veto. Katz and Rice had earlier been among the four council members who opposed keeping the former contracting method.

Council members George Leventhal and Nancy Floreen, the other two council members who supported Leggett’s changes, said they didn’t believe it was necessary to overturn Leggett’s veto given that the proposed compromise has the support of the council and Leggett and voted against overriding the veto.

In addition to implementing the DBM contracting method, the compromise would also require the executive to provide quarterly updates to the council about the stormwater management program and reduce Leggett’s recommended spending appropriation in fiscal 2019 from $43.2 million to $20 million.

Leggett had asked for the six-year funding for stormwater projects up front to pay the contractor who would build them. However, the council plans instead to provide $20 million up front, evaluate the work, and then approve a new appropriation if members are satisfied by the progress.

The move in effect gives the council an additional oversight role in the contracting process. The compromise also recommends specific language to be included in the request for project bids that includes a preference for projects with long-term environmental benefits—rather than those that treat the most acres of impervious surface at the cheapest cost to the contractor.

In order to be selected, a contractor must also choose 10 to 12 projects to complete that have been partially designed but were suspended while the contracting debate took place, according to the compromise.

Riemer said the compromise addresses important issues that cropped up because of Leggett’s veto.

“This framework is the result of extensive negotiations,” Riemer said. “I personally am quite comfortable with it.”

Council member Nancy Navarro mentioned the recent devastating flooding in Ellicott City as an example of what can happen without proper stormwater management. She said the compromise includes “a commitment to environmental stewardship.”

Leggett’s veto also generated significant questions concerning the county charter. The council spent nearly an hour debating differing legal opinions about whether Leggett had the authority to veto the council’s 5-4 vote. Council attorney Amanda Mihill said council staff believe Leggett exceeded his authority because his veto resulted in a higher spending appropriation for stormwater projects than the council had initially approved. The power to appropriate money lies with the council—so Leggett can’t increase spending on county budget items beyond what it has approved.

County Attorney Marc Hansen said the county charter enables Leggett to “disapprove or reduce” an item in the budget. In this case, Leggett was within his authority to veto the council’s decision, even though doing so restored the stormwater project budget to a higher amount than was approved by the council vote.

Council members Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner, who are both running for county executive, said Tuesday they believed it was important to override the veto then move on to approving the compromise.

Update – 3:35 p.m. – This article was updated to clearly indicate that the County Council on Tuesday voted to override Leggett’s initial veto. The original version indicated a formal vote was expected at a later date. The council must still take a formal vote on the compromise proposal in the future, but not to override the veto.