Frederick County Council advancing plans to buy $ 20M Oak Street property | Council
Opponents of the Frederick County government’s bid for a $ 20 million property claim that the county is in a hurry to acquire and neglects to consult with the public.
County officials, however, said Tuesday that they will notify the public as soon as possible about plans to purchase the 26-acre site at 800 Oak St. off U.S. Route 15. In addition, county leaders said their chance to acquire the property, which includes a 209,000-square-foot facility currently used for COVID-19 vaccination clinics , will pass away if they hesitate.
If the county does not complete its offer by Oct. 15, the Miami-based private equity firm that sells the property will move to another bidder, the county’s chief administrative officer Rick Harcum said.
“The Frederick County government can be very agile to move quickly to this opportunity,” Harcum said at the council meeting Tuesday. “If we procrastinate, the opportunity will be lost quickly.”
The province, he added, has not yet sat down on the information. Officials will have to wait for the end of the nearly three -month diligence process in which engineering and environmental assessments are completed. In property acquisitions, the process typically only involves the buyer and seller, Harcum said, and it’s not a public process.
For the county to complete the purchase, the County Council will need to vote at its Oct. 12 meeting to approve the necessary funding. After hearing public comment on Tuesday, in which two constituents asked why members of the public were not involved earlier, the council had the option to vote but they chose to delay the decision.
The period for comment usually ends when the council concludes its meetings, though the public can submit written testimony about the proposal by 5 p.m. Friday.
The council’s decision came a day after four out of five Frederick city aldermen emailed a letter to county officials asking the council to postpone its vote. The letter shocked and confused county officials, who said they had not yet heard opposition to the proposal from city officials.
The aldermen also requested for a joint city and county meeting to discuss the future of the property, but on Tuesday night, the council had no plans to meet with the aldermen to sign the letter before next Tuesday, Council President MC Keegan-Ayer (D) said.
Signatories to the city board include Pro Tem President Kelly Russell (D) and aldermen Derek Shackelford (D), Donna Kuzemchak (D) and Ben MacShane (D). Also lending her name to the letter was Katie Nash (D), the top vote -getter in the city’s primary election for the Board of Aldermen.
“This proposed purchase surprised us because the property has been listed for sale for 12-18 months and this is the first time we understand that the province is interested in acquiring a large plot of land within the city. of Frederick, ”the signatories said in a copy of the letter obtained by the News-Post.
Mayor Michael O’Connor (D), who serves as the city’s executive officer on the Aldermen legislative Board, also expressed support for the position the aldermen took in their letter. The mayor said he could have signed in if the board had not been pressed for the time to send it to the province.
The County Council first discussed the Oak Street proposal at its Sept. 28 meeting, a week after County Executive Jan Gardner (D) announced the county’s plans in a Sept. 21 press release.
The total costs, including preparing the roof for the solar panels, will bring the final price tag to $ 32 million. The county expects to recover a chunk of the $ 20 million cost of owning the site-not including costs beyond acquiring the property-by combining operations and efficiency improvements to bring the net cost between $ 7 million and $ 8 million, Gardner said.
Buying the property will bring an influx of economic activity to businesses in the area adjacent to the property, including the Golden Mile, Gardner said. It will also allow the provincial government the opportunity to shift services that are running out of space, he added.
The facility could be used to centralize some government services by opening an operations center, Harcum said at the meeting. Doing so could speed up the construction of a library in the western part of the city and eliminate costs that would arise if a new building had to be built.
Capital projects that rely on buying county land or erecting buildings will also move faster and cheaper by using Oak Street facilities, according to county documents.
The 911 call center that facilitates calls from both residents in the city and other parts of the province is growing in its capacity, Harcum said. He added that its move to the Oak Street facility would avoid construction costs and benefit from the telephone infrastructure that remains from a call center of the previous company.
Councilor Phil Dacey (D) was vocal in opposition to the proposal, telling the News-Post on Monday that he felt the process had been rushed. It is also not clear to him that the province is looking for real estate or there is a need for space, he said.
“We’re going to buy this thing on a whim, on two weeks’ notice, ”Dacey said. “It has the potential to be a boondoggle.”
Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan