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Board moves government building plan forward


Prince Frederick, MD - It’s big and controversial but it appears to be moving forward. The Calvert County Government’s proposal to construct an office building at the parcel known as Armory Square was met with no protest from the five county commissioners during a Sept. 11 work session. In an Aug. 30 memo to the commissioners from Department of General Services Director V. Wilson Freeland, it was noted that county staff is in the process of developing a concept plan for building the large structure at the tract off Route 2/4.

“This new building will accommodate the needs of county departments, consolidate multiple services to the public at a single location, eliminate leased space and release additional office space for the Circuit Court in the Circuit Courthouse,” Freeland stated. “While much of the focus has been on this building, there are a myriad of other space needs to consider in a long-range facilities strategy that goes beyond our six-year Capital Improvement Plan.”

Freeland, along with Deputy County Administrator Wilson Parran and Capital Projects Coordinator C.J. Jones made the presentation, which summarized current challenges in providing office space for Calvert’s 1,000 fulltime government employees and proposed solutions.

Driving the effort to construct the new building are a Circuit Court mandate to have local government offices moved out of the courthouse, the apparent maxing out of space at the County Services Plaza on Main Street along with a similar situation at the county sheriff’s office at Calvert House on Church Street and the annual expenditure of leasing office space at privately owned office buildings on Main Street.
“We’re talking about a building that’s going to be around for generations,” said Commissioners’ President Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R - District 3].

Noting that the county currently has its best bond rating ever and recent bond sales have been attracting impressive interest rates, Commissioners’ Vice President Tom Hejl [R - At large] added, “this is the time to do it.”

Commissioner Mike Hart [R - District 1] said the plan to request $67 million in bonding authority from the state, with a large portion to be used for the government office building was well-received by the bond raters when county officials met with them in New York earlier this year. “They thought these were valid projects,” Hart said. The bonding request has met with some opposition from one local lawmaker, a citizens’ group promoting commercial and residential growth control, and a few county commissioner candidates.

After summarizing proposals that included expanding the current County Services Plaza, Freeland stated that the Armory Square plan is the only option that “allows all the pieces to fall in place.” One of those pieces is to relocate the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office at the three-story County Services Plaza building.

One argument that has been presented by opponents of the county government’s Armory Square plan has been the departure from Old Town Prince Frederick. Freeland state that when the county was created there was only a judicial leadership. The judicial component will remain on Main Street, Freeland stated. Hejl observed that there are mostly lawyers’ offices and almost no retail locations in Old Town Prince Frederick.

Other impacts of the proposed plan would be moving the county’s Highway Maintenance Division headquarters to the old Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative District Building on Dares Beach Road, where the Harriet Elizabeth Brown Community Center is currently located. That would then provide additional land to expand the Calvert County Detention Center. The county would build a replacement community center on recently acquired property in Prince Frederick.
Parran, who served two terms of county commissioner, stated the implementation of the plans to rearrange where Calvert’s local government employees work is a plan that “will span more than one board.” Jones called the proposal “a long-range plan. It’s not going to be done in the next six years.”

“You have to be realistic,” said Commissioner Pat Nutter [R - District 2], who explained the county government’s eviction from the courthouse is inevitable.
Freeland stated in his memo to the board that county government staff’s concept plan for the administration building at Armory Square will be completed shortly.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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