Auto-emissions test station to be built at Air Business Center because of cost

January 05, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

CLARIFICATION

A story in Wednesday's Carroll and Howard editions should have made clear that the current auto-emissions testing station on Bethel Road near Route 140 in Carroll County will remain in operation until the end of this year.

A new auto-emissions test station will be built at the Air Business Center as planned because it would be too expensive to build it at another site, Carroll and Westminster officials decided yesterday.

It would cost taxpayers about $300,000 to build the station at another location, city Public Works Director Thomas B. Beyard said.

Carroll Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy and Mayor W. Benjamin Brown said at a meeting yesterday that they were not willing to spend that amount, according to Mr. Beyard, who was designated as a spokesman for the officials. Commissioner Julia W. Gouge did not attend the meeting.

County and city officials had opposed building the station at the Air Business Center, an industrial park on Route 97 in Westminster, and asked the governor to intervene.

Officials said the test station would use valuable land that other wise could be purchased by businesses that would create jobs and pay property taxes. State-controlled facilities do not pay property taxes.

The commissioners and the mayor said they did not learn about plans to build the station at the industrial park until November, when Marta Technologies Inc. of Nashville, Tenn., already had a contract to buy 2 acres there.

Marta won a state contract to build 19 emissions stations throughout Maryland.

The current testing station, on Bethel Road near Route 140 in Reese, will no longer be used because the federal Clean Air Act requires a more stringent emissions test for cars and, consequently, a larger facility.

Last month, Gov. William Donald Schaefer told county and city officials they could suggest other sites but he would not guarantee Marta would choose another site.

Marta already had performed engineering work at the Air Business Center site, project manager Al Copp said. He would not disclose how much the company spent.

Mr. Copp agreed to look at nine sites proposed by local officials and to compute engineering costs for each site.

"The state and Marta couldn't have been more cooperative," Mr. Beyard said.

Marta is under pressure to begin building the station because its contract says the station must be open by January 1995 or the company could be fined.

Mr. Copp could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Marta needed a site where roads, water and sewer lines and storm-water management ponds were partially or fully built, said William E. Jenne, administrator of the county's Office of Economic Development.

Few sites like that are available in Westminster, Mr. Jenne said.

The site that would have cost the least to develop was adjacent to the current testing station on Bethel Road, he said.

One acre in the 3-acre parcel is owned by Development Company of America in Westminster, with which Glenn Bair, a Carroll Economic Development Commission member, is affiliated; Westminster real estate agent Wayne Lockard owns the other two acres, Mr. Jenne said.

The owners were willing to sell, Mr. Beyard said.

But it would have cost about $300,000 to buy and engineer the site, he said. Because Marta already has spent money at the Air Business Center site, no more state money would have available for the new site, he said.

County and city officials could not justify spending $300,000 for a new site for the station when Carroll needs new schools and roads, Mr. Beyard said.

But the county and city would not have had this problem if the county still owned the property, Russell A. Sellman, the former chairman of the Carroll Industrial Development Authority, said yesterday.

The IDA, the county's development arm, bought 96 acres of land to build the Air Business Park in the early 1980s. The IDA oversaw development of 52 acres of the park.

In 1988 the IDA, at the urging of the commissioners -- John Armacost, Jeff Griffith and Mrs. Gouge -- sold the remaining 44 acres to Operating Engineers Local No. 37 of Baltimore, said Mr. Sellman, who resigned as IDA chairman last month.

The union has been selling and developing parcels since.

The county should have kept the land because it would have maintained control over what was built there, Mr. Sellman said.

Mr. Jenne said he is worried that the station will cause traffic jams at the industrial park. The station is expected to draw 200 cars a day.

"My concern is we have companies out there that have made an investment and need to get their trucks on the road as quickly as possible," he said.

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