Balto Co. tells city: Hands off the HCFA Hayden, Bentley say attempted steal is off-base.

August 28, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

In a resumption of hostilities from two years ago, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden and Rep. Helen D. Bentley, R-2nd, today accused Baltimore of trying to "steal" the federal Health Care Financing Agency from Woodlawn.

Bentley said the city's actions amounted to stealing "3,000 federal jobs and 12 to 15 million dollars annually from Baltimore County."

The two officials held a joint news conference in Towson to denounce the city for allegedly offering, for free, two acres of city-owned land for the project. Hayden said the land is worth at least $10 million.

This is money the city cannot afford to give away, he said. The city site is bounded by Pratt, Camden, Paca and Eutaw streets, near the new baseball stadium.

However, a downtown development official said later that no decision has been made about how much the Rouse Co.-led city development team would pay for the land, nor has the land been appraised.

David Gillece, president of Center City-Inner Harbor Development Inc., which coordinates downtown development, denied the city is trying to steal county jobs or that any city official misrepresented the county's interest in keeping HCFA.

"The city is eligible," Gillece said. "It would be irresponsible not to respond."

Bentley, who serves on a public works subcommittee for public buildings and grounds, said she would "pull every string in my little purse" to keep the federal agency in the county, on one of the six sites in Woodlawn or Owings Mills that county developers are touting for a new HCFA headquarters -- a $100 million, 640,000 square foot building.

Hayden and Bentley accused city officials of giving government officials the impression the county doesn't care if the agency leaves.

"That's just not true," Bentley said, adding that she fears that if HCFA moves downtown, other agencies affiliated with the huge Social Security complex in Woodlawn also eventually may move to the city.

At the county's request, the deadline for submission of development proposals has been delayed until Nov. 8 to give county developers more time to work on their proposals. No actual decision on a new site for the agency will be made until June or July of 1992.

The congresswoman said she will take time from her battle over congressional redistricting to accompany Hayden to Philadelphia Friday to meet with General Services Administration officials and stress the county's interest in keeping HCFA. Hayden said an aide will be assigned to work full time on coordinating county bids for the agency, and he is prepared to commit up to $5 million worth of capital expense money already designated for roads or utility work to provide infrastructure for a county site for the new building.

Bentley suggested that her "possible future opponent," Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-3rd, is quietly favoring the city's interests in the issue -- something that Cardin vehemently denied. Cardin's district covers portions of the county and city.

"This is an open competition issue," Cardin said. "I'm not taking a side."

Cardin's efforts two years ago to give the city a shot at the huge federal agency -- by amending federal legislation authorizing the agency's move to include consideration of the city as well as county sites -- sparked a controversy in September 1989, in which similar charges of job stealing were hurled downtown by former executive Dennis F. Rasmussen.

"We have found that the playing field upon which bids for the project must be made is not a level one and that there is discrimination against county sites," Hayden said. He accused the city of "muddying the waters" by offering a free site, and said he is "disappointed" the Schmoke administration "has made extraordinary efforts to entice" to the city a federal agency that has been in Baltimore County since 1979.

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