Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden and U.S. Rep. Helen D. Bentley, R-2nd, are to travel to Philadelphia tomorrow to make a pitch to federal officials to keep the Health Care Financing Administration in the county.
The two hope to boost the county's chances of keeping the sprawling government agency from moving into Baltimore to a two-acre site near the new baseball stadium.
They claim that Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's administration is trying steal the 3,300-man agency, which plans to build a new $100 million, 664,000-square foot building to replace the seven buildings that now house it in Woodlawn.
Hayden complained at a news conference yesterday that the city isn't fairly competing for the HCFA because he claims county private businessmen are having to compete against the city government, which has chosen one development team and offered the city-owned site. Hayden accused the city of giving away land worth up to $10 million when the city is financially strapped.
City development officials deny that, however, claiming that no appraisal of the site has been done and that no price for the land has been determined.
David Gillece, president of the Center City-Inner Harbor Development Inc., which controls downtown development, said the land could be given free, but that has not been decided. He rebutted Bentley's charge yesterday that the city was trying to steal county jobs, saying that the federal government made the city eligible as a potential site for the new building and that it would be "irresponsible not to respond."
"Apparently, some of the officials in the county misunderstand our response to the government's request for proposals for the Health Care Financing Administration," Schmoke said in a prepared statement. "What we are doing in our offer is making the same kind of investment in the city that we are making in the Christopher Columbus Center.
"We are 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 GSA process is fair and open. . . . This will result in a better selection for the public."
The county developers have offered six sites, four in Woodlawn close to the current Social Security complex and two in Owings Mills near the mall there.
Hayden has pledged to use up to $5 million worth of county capital funds to help any developer who wins the project to build needed roads, sewer and water lines to the site.
The deadline for submitting development proposals has been delayed several weeks until Nov. 8 at the county's request to give the developers more time to complete their bids. The General Services Administration isn't expected to select the site until next June or July.
The proposed move spurred controversy two years ago when the city was amended into federal legislation as a possible site for the agency. Then-Baltimore County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen objected to the move, claiming the city was moving too aggressively to take the jobs and the estimated $265,000 a week HCFA employees spend in the county.
Hayden has been worried lately that the city's more sophisticated development process and its willingness to offer a high-profile site could edge private county developers out of the running.
Bentley vowed she will be the county's lobbyist on the issue, and will "pull every string in my little purse" to keep the jobs and income in Baltimore County.