Hutchins promises action on government building

Prince Frederick, MD - The lingering issue of getting Calvert government out of the county courthouse and possibly building a government office building got a step closer to a final decision Tuesday, Jan. 15. Calvert Deputy County Administrator Wilson Parran and Department of General Services Director V. Wilson Freeland made a presentation to the county commissioners during the board’s weekly meeting. The work session was held to update the three new members of the board on county government’s current strategy, which Freeland stated, aims “to provide an overview and status of the Long-Range Facilities Strategy with emphasis on finding solutions to the office space problems that have existed for many years.” At the direction of the previous board of county commissioners, county government staff has proceeded with developing a concept plan to build a new county administration building at 175 Armory Road in Prince Frederick. The concept plan is near completion.

“Most of the [county] employees would be going into the Armory Square building,” said Parran. Under the plan presented during the work session, over 20 entities, including 10 county departments, would have offices in the new Armory Square building. The County Treasurer’s Office would also move there. The building would also include a parking garage, which Parran pointed out would reduce the need for more impervious surfaces. Parran added that construction of the new building could begin within a year.

In addition to vacating the county courthouse in order to give the local circuit court an opportunity to expand, the move to a larger, county-owned structure would enable Calvert Government to own rather than rent office space. Currently, Calvert County Government is leasing Main Street office space at a cost of $356,580 a year. The rent is projected to significantly increase over the next 30 years.

“To keep spending rent when you know you’re going to move doesn’t make sense,” said Commissioner Mike Hart [R-District 1].

During the presentation, two of the new commissioners had comments for the presenters. Commissioner Earl “Buddy” Hance [R-At large] told presenters that most of the cited positives of the proposed Armory Square project could be applied to other choices, such as expanded facilities adjacent to the County Services Plaza.  

“I believe a garage is needed,” said Commissioners’ President Thomas E. “Tim” Hutchins [R-District 2]. As for the proposed administration building, Hutchins declared, “it’s needed in a timely fashion. We’ve got bonding authority.”

Under the county’s current Capital Improvements Plan (CVIP), $50 million in bonds would be used over the course of several fiscal years to construct the new building. The bonding authority was secured by a majority of the Calvert County Delegation to Annapolis last session. Hance stated that he didn’t think it was a need to expend any county funds until a firm decision on the project was made.  Freeland pointed out that the process was getting close to the design phase when county government will be “pretty much wedded to the site [Armory Square].”

There were other individuals besides the commissioners who weighed in on the plan. “Make a decision, stick to it and get it done,” said Calvert County Circuit Court Judge Marjorie Clagett, who admitted, “I don’t have a dog in the fight” regarding the location of a government center as long as it was no longer in the courthouse. Clagett stated county residents “deserve a county administration building” and renting office space for government “is fiscally irresponsible.” Clearly frustrated with the delays in deciding where county government would relocate, Clagett declared, “the courthouse needs to be a courthouse.”

Also commenting were Huntingtown resident Susan Dzurec, who stated, “there has been no public input” requested about the planned government administration building despite the enormous public expenditure involved in the proposal.
Port Republic resident and former Department of Planning and Zoning employee Miriam Gholl cited a portion of the Prince Frederick Town Center Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance that stated the area known as “Old Town Prince Frederick” is “intended to remain the center of county government.” Gholl told the board, “I strongly urge you to consider what the master plan says.” Regarding the decision not to expand the County Services Plaza, Gholl stated, “there was always a second tower planned.” While she concurred that a parking garage would be a good idea, Gholl said it should be located in a parking area behind the county courthouse.

Hutchins asked County Administrator Terry Shannon to schedule another work session so that the board can make a final decision on the county government center location. “We’re going to get this thing done and it’s not going to make everybody happy,” Hutchins said.

Previous stories
Dec. 13, 2018

Sept. 12, 2018 

July 20, 2018 

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