Telemecanique: What's the Rush?

October 04, 1994

After years of dithering over where to locate the Carroll County education department, why are the county commissioners rushing to make a decision on whether to lease the vacant Telemecanique building? The rush may have more to do with the coming election than the needs of county government.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell asserts the county must move quickly because there may be another buyer in the wings who may scoop up the property. That's a problem? If that is indeed true, the county would be better stepping aside and allowing this buyer to purchase the vacant building.

Presumably this buyer would be putting some type of business in the building. By keeping the building in private hands, it would remain on the tax rolls. In addition, a private business would be adding people to the county's work force rather than just relocating them.

Even if the buyer is just a speculator and has no immediate plans to use the building, maintaining Telemecanique as a potential industrial site makes more sense than transforming it into a government office building. There are few large vacant industrial buildings -- 150,000 square feet or more -- available in Maryland for immediate use. Industrial concerns have looked at the building during the past year. It is attractive because it is relatively close to Interstate 795. Maintaining industrial use of this building may attract other industrial users to the area. Making it a government building doesn't produce a similar magnetic effect.

There is another important reason for not rushing: The county needs to explore the role the education department headquarters could play in the revitalization of downtown Westminster. Removing 230 central office employees from Westminster and placing them in rural Reese would mean fewer workers to patronize downtown stores, restaurants and businesses. A better strategy for both the county and the city of Westminster would be to locate the central office in the downtown business district.

It appears that the prospect of having a different board of commissioners, who may not be so enthusiastic about this site, is driving this decision. Rather than ramroding through a hasty decision based on political considerations, Carroll citizens would be better served by a delay in this matter.

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