State seeks office rent county retorts with higher-priced demand of its own

November 27, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Howard County officials are balking at the state's request for more than $10,000 in rent for the state's attorney's office at the Multi-Service Center in Ellicott City.

If the state forces the county to pay the money, county officials say they want rent for state offices at the County Courthouse -- a bill that would total more than $250,000.

"If we have to pay rent for the state's attorney and they don't have to pay for the Circuit Court, that's not right," County Executive Charles I. Ecker said.

State and county administrators are to meet Tuesday to discuss the matter.

Howard is one of nine counties, in addition to Baltimore City, that have been asked to pay for office space at the state-owned multi-service centers, said Joseph Harrison Jr., spokesman for the Maryland Department of General Services.

"As far as I know, they've paid up," Mr. Harrison said. "This is the first disagreement I've heard of."

The department has been seeking rent in the past two years from any agency that is not fully funded by state money, Mr. Harrison said. State's attorneys' offices in Maryland are mostly funded by counties.

The state is even seeking rent from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which gets some of its funds from licensing fees, Mr. Harrison said.

"That was instituted when the state budget crunch hit," he said. "We tried to do it on a selective basis. No matter how you cut it, the rent being charged at the multi-service centers is very reasonable."

County State's Attorney William R. Hymes said he thought the issue was settled last year -- with an understanding that the county would not have to pay the rent.

"All of the sudden, out of the clear blue sky, I get this invoice," Mr. Hymes said.

Mr. Hymes received the invoice on Nov. 16, with the state general services department requesting $10,476 for six-months' rent for the 1,973 square feet of space his office uses at the Multi-Service Center.

The state is charging the county $10.62 per square foot of office space, according to the invoice.

The state's attorney's office has had offices at the Multi-Service Center since the facility was built in the early 1980s for easy access to the Howard District Court. Sixteen prosecutors, clerks and secretaries work at the office.

The state's attorney's main office is in the courthouse, about one mile away from the Multi-Service Center.

Mr. Hymes sent Martin Walsh Jr., secretary of the Department of General Services, a letter on Nov. 18 saying he will not pay the rent because his office lacks the money.

Rebecca Horvath, director of the Howard Department of General Services, took the issue a step further. She sent Mr. Walsh a letter on Nov. 19 saying that if his agency presses the county into paying the rent, the county will charge the department for state offices at the courthouse.

xTC The county's bill totals $251,683, covering 23,699 square feet of space for judges' chambers, the Orphan's Court, Clerk of the Court offices and Register of Wills offices. The county would bill the state at the same rental rate as it is being charged, according to the letter.

Ms. Horvath offered to deduct the rent the state wants for the prosecutor's office from the county's bill.

Mr. Harrison, of the state General Services Department, declined to comment on the county's bill.

"That is an issue that will be discussed at the meeting," he said.

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