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The Tentacle


January 11, 2005

Muddled Thinking - Still

John W. Ashbury

So, the Frederick County Board of Education wants the City of Frederick to donate a parcel of land along the Carroll Creek on which to build a new $18 million headquarters.

Sounds like a great idea until you get into the details. It would keep the core administrative staff, now occupying 115 East Church Street, downtown, plus add a couple hundred employees currently working at Hayward Road and Thomas Johnson Drive on the north end of town.

The argument from some present and former city officials is that such a move would generate more business for downtown merchants. Then you see the plans for the new building and realize that the school system plans to "rent out" space on the first floor to retail merchants.

So where do you think those 300 or so employees are going to shop?

Now we learn that Frederick County is investigating the purchase from the city of a parcel of land just across - and to the north of - The William Donald Schaefer Building on East All Saints Street. This 1-acre plot was recently appraised at $780,000. And, if you are familiar with this location, it is not as desirable a piece of property as is Site G, which the school system wants The City of Frederick to donate.

We further discover that Site G is 3.25 acres and has an appraised value of $625,000. Remember, however, that the appraisals were done many months apart, with the work on Site G coming first.

In the meantime, the state has announced the funding of additional work on area highways which will eventually lead to East Street replacing Market Street as the primary entrance to downtown Frederick. And Site G is at the corner of East South Street and East Street, which will likely be the first intersection people will reach coming off Interstate 70 and heading into downtown.

So which parcel do you think is the more valuable?

And wouldn't you know it, here comes another party to the table to muddy the waters. The Tourism Council of Frederick wants to "partner" with the BoE in the use of Site G. But this will perhaps force a subdivision of the property because the tourism council is a taxable entity, and the BoE is not.

Any discussion of the donation or purchase of Site G by the BoE should be completely separated from any discussion of the purchase of any portion of that parcel by the tourism council.

For those of us who worship at the feet of Conspiracy Movie Director Oliver Stone: "Methinks there is mischief afoot."

For the life of me I can't understand why this discussion is even on the table, particularly when you throw in the fact that the Board of Education wants the City of Frederick and the county commissioners to "partner" again in the construction of a parking deck for the use of all those BoE employees moving to Site G. Besides, wouldn't that new parking deck have to be built on another prime Carroll Creek parcel, thus removing it from the tax rolls as well? And it would cost at least $7 million to boot!

History tells us that these BoE employees will get a sweetheart deal on their monthly parking fees, much the same as Winchester Hall employees get in the Church Street deck "because the county helped fund that structure back in the 1970s."

And just where do you think all the money is going to come from to fund all of this? The taxpayers, of course.

But, first of all, the BoE is suggesting that $500,000 be taken from its operating account to "help" pay off the debt to build their new headquarters. School officials insist that by moving all the administrative staff into one facility it will save that much money in travel expenses and time lost traveling between the various sites.

Hooey!

To emphasize the point again, just why doesn't the BoE build its new headquarters on Thomas Johnson Drive, between its current facility on Hayward Road and its warehouse on property it already owns? Then the present building could be torn down and a parking lot built at a whole lot LESS cost than a downtown parking deck.

It is anathema to me.



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