Hayden, Bentley charge city with trying to 'steal' HCFA jobs from county

August 29, 1991|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

The Schmoke administration was accused yesterday of trying to "steal" 3,000 federal jobs from Baltimore County through luring the Health Care Financing Administration to downtown Baltimore.

The focus of the accusation by Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden and Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, was the city administration's reservation of a 2-acre site near the new Camden Yards baseball stadium for a proposed HCFA office building.

The federal agency has been located since 1979 in Woodlawn, with HCFA employees divided among seven buildings. A decision was made in 1989 to consolidate them in one new building -- and the federal government chose to limit the &L geographical areas under consideration to downtown Baltimore and Woodlawn or Owings Mills in Baltimore County.

City and county officials have been squabbling ever since.

"I will battle any efforts by Baltimore City to steal 3,000 federal jobs and $12 to $15 million annually in spending money from Baltimore County," said Mrs. Bentley, whose district encompasses much of the county. "If we don't fight this now, it could be the start of a general exodus from the county of the entire Social Security Administration complex to the downtown area."

Social Security's headquarters complex is in Woodlawn, and an additional Social Security office building known as Metro West is downtown at Mulberry and Greene streets.

The city wants HCFA's offices to occupy a site bounded by Paca, Pratt, Eutaw and Camden streets, north of the new stadium, to be developed in a joint venture by the Rouse Co., Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and Daniel P. Henson III.

Baltimore County officials say that they have identified six developers with sites within the designated area and are committed to working with all of them.

"We have found that the playing field upon which bids for this project must be made is not a level one, and that there is discrimination against county sites," Mr. Hayden said yesterday.

"But the crux of the matter is that Baltimore County has six players, independent business people who are preparing competitive bids in accordance with the rules of our free enterprise system, and Baltimore City is muddying the waters by offering a development-construction team there a free site in the neighborhood of the new Camden Yards baseball stadium," he said.

Mr. Hayden said that the city land is worth an estimated $10 million.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said through a spokesman that the city is "looking at the long-term value of pieces of property, and not short-term profits on a sale that may not render long-term benefits for the citizens."

The mayor, praising the federal General Services Administration for "encouraging competition in the best sense by considering an excellent and appropriate city location in addition to county sites," declined to comment on the complaint that the city was trying to steal jobs.

David Gillece, president of Center City-Inner Harbor Development, refused to discuss whether the city land would be free. "The city's position is not going to be made public at this time," he said. "Our effort is in progress. We have until November to put it together."

Jeff Middlebrooks, vice president for development at Center-City Inner Harbor, an agency that oversees downtown redevelopment, has noted that the proposed HCFA site is close to the Metro and light-rail lines and MARC commuter rail service to Washington as well as to Interstate 395 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

An example of "discrimination against county sites," according to Mr. Hayden, is a requirement that the county provide more than 3,000 parking spaces while the city is required to provide 650 on-site parking spaces.

Mr. Middlebrooks has said that an additional 1,500 off-site parking spaces will be offered to HCFA employees free of charge for at least 10 years.

Baltimore County officials have obtained an extension of the Oct. 15 deadline for submitting HCFA proposals. The new deadline is Nov. 8 for all bidders.

BTC In the meantime, Mrs. Bentley and Mr. Hayden planned to meet with GSA officials in Philadelphia tomorrow to lobby for their position. They said that most HCFA employees live in the county and want the agency to remain there.

Mrs. Bentley, a member of the House Public Buildings and Grounds Subcommittee of the Public Works and Transportation Committee that oversees all GSA projects, said she will use all of her influence to keep the agency in the county.

"I can assure you that I am going to pull every little string on my purse," she said.

The GSA is expected to make a final decision in June 1992.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.