SYKESVILLE - Town Council members aren't the only ones who want to learn more about a proposal to borrow $1.5 million in state and county money to help finance a 32-acre industrial park in town.
The governor wants to know more, too, and he's asked citizens what they think.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer's office took out an ad recently in a local newspaper asking citizens for views on low-risk loans to the town for development of Raincliffe Center, planned for Route 32 at Raincliffe Road.
"It's brand-new," Joel Lee, the governor's executive assistant, said yesterday of the comment campaign. "Depending on the reaction, we might see more of this."
The ad asked for letters no later than Dec. 14, though Lee said the deadline was not absolute. The responses have not exactly been pouring in --six had been received as of yesterday morning -- but Lee said he expected to receive more throughout the week.
"The concerns we received are the concerns you would expect," said Lee .
"How would it affect taxation? Who will have to take the risks? Who will the beneficiaries be? It's actually balanced, between some who are interested in this kind of development and some who are not."
The ad did include one error, saying Sykesville already has asked for the loans, when no applications have been completed by the town.
In fact, what citizens have to say to the governor about state money going to Sykesville may be immaterial, because the Town Council has been cool to the proposal.
On Dec. 10, the council listened as state and county administrators outlined the loan package aimed at helping finance the $4.7 million park, a project of Security Enterprises Inc., of Ellicott City, Howard County.
To be eligible for the state money, the town must create a special tax district for the park. The tax district is aimed at allowing the town a mechanism to recoup losses should the park fail financially.
The town would be responsible for repaying the $1.5 million. But the benefits far outweigh the risk, said James Gatto, a loan program director in the state Department of Economic and Employment Development, because the town would take possession of $4.7 million in property if the park failed.
The council delayed action on the proposal until January, saying more time is needed to gather information. However, some council members have made it clear they're not wild about the plan.
Council President Charles Mullins objected to the town borrowing the money, saying it would be "asinine," and that the town shouldn't shoulder the risk alone. He suggested that the developer borrow the money privately.
"We're not in the banking business," Mullins said yesterday.
Councilwoman Maxine Wooleyhand also objected to the plan, saying loan administration was not a "legitimate function for a municipal government."
However, Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. said the risk involved was negligible for a venture projected to create 250 jobs and increase the town's industrial tax base by more than $70,000 annually.
"I want to see the town move forward, and that's what things like (the park) accomplish," Helt said.
The mayor said he supports the loan proposal in general, but would like to see the county join in assuming some of the financial risk.
Construction of the park is scheduled to begin this spring, with completion set for the end of 1991, said project manager David Moxley, of Security Enterprises. The planned seven lots would include 200,000 square feet of industrial space and 100,000 square feet for commercial use.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $4.7 million, including the loan money.