Lawmakers oppose plan to buy site Commissioners seek building in Reese for school board offices

Legislators dislike location

November 02, 1995|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,SUN STAFF

Carroll legislators, who have the power to quash the financing for the deal, oppose the county's plan to buy the former Telemecanique Inc. building, one delegate said yesterday. "There's been some pressure placed on [td N. Dixon, a 5th District Democrat, said yesterday.

The commissioners said in July that they planned to buy the former manufacturing building on Bethel Road in Reese for $4.2 million to house county Board of Education offices. The contract has never been signed because the commissioners said they have concerns about well contamination at the site.

Legislators would have to introduce a bill in Annapolis to allow the county to sell bonds to pay for the building.

Republican Sen. Larry E. Haines of the 5th District, who chairs the delegation, said legislators have not made a formal recommendation to the commissioners. But he added, "I'm not favoring it right now.

"We'd have the final say on the bonds for the funding," Mr. Haines said.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell bristled at the suggestion that the delegation opposed the purchase. County officials have been considering buying the Telemecanique site for about two years.

"The delegates are not the County Commissioners," Mr. Dell said. "While we depend on them for a lot of support, I don't think it's in their place to run the county."

Mr. Dixon said the Board of Education should be located in Westminster, the county seat. The commissioners should consider building a headquarters on one of two properties already owned by the county -- a lot across from the County Office Building at 225 N. Center St. or a 120-acre parcel off Cranberry Road where the county plans to build new elementary, middle and high schools to serve Westminster.

Both sites are served by water and sewer systems, which is a plus, Mr. Dixon said. The Telemecanique building uses a private septic system and wells.

Legislators became involved in the issue, Mr. Haines said, after reading in local newspapers that Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said the purchase was final. The delegation met with the commissioners in August to ask for more information about the contract, Mr. Haines said.

"We didn't have any facts in hand," he said. "It certainly won't be a done deal as far as I'm concerned" if the delegation does not receive more information, he said.

Mr. Haines, a Realtor, said he asked for an independent appraisal of the property, which includes a 156,000-square-foot building and 25 acres, to make sure the county was paying a fair price.

"No government purchases property without an independent appraisal," he said.

"I have expertise in the real estate field," Mr. Haines said. The asking price of $4.2 million sounded too high, he said. He would not say what he thought the price should be.

Mr. Dell said yesterday that the county subsequently hired a company to do an appraisal and that the appraisal came in "somewhat less [than $4.2 million] but not a great deal." He said he would not reveal the appraiser's name or the exact amount of JTC the appraisal because the deal was not final.

Glenn S. Bair, president of Development Co. of America, owns the building. Telemecanique made electrical components at the site from 1985 until August 1993.

The commissioners have delayed the purchase because the owner has not satisfied their concerns about future contamination, Mr. Dell said. A well inside the building was contaminated with a cleaning solvent and is being cleaned up by Square D. Co., a sister company of Telemecanique.

Also, an electrical transformer on the property contains PCBs, chemicals used as coolants and lubricants that are known to cause cancer. Mr. Haines said he also is worried about contamination in the building. "The information we have is it doesn't have a clean bill of health," he said.

The county has been looking for a site for the school headquarters for at least eight years.

The offices now are in the south wing of the Courthouse Annex at 55 N. Court St. in Westminster, space that Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. said he needs.

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