Plans to buy plant pressed County delegation split on proposed $4.2 million bond sale

November 26, 1995|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The county commissioners say they will buy the former Telemecanique plant in Reese, despite possible contamination and the reluctance of some of the the county's General Assembly delegation to authorize a $4.2 million bond sale to pay for it.

The commissioners want to move Board of Education administrative offices from the Carroll courthouse annex on Center Street in Westminster to the 156,000-square-foot former electrical components manufacturing plant on Bethel Road. But they would need the approval of state lawmakers to sell bonds because Carroll is not a home rule county.

The commissioners said in July that they planned to buy the property from Westminster businessman Glenn S. Bair, president of Development Co. of America, despite lingering questions about a well inside the building that had been contaminated by cleaning solvents. The well has been the subject of a cleanup effort by Square D, a sister company of Telemecanique, for more than a year.

"I just feel like it's too good a deal to turn down, and I hope the delegation will support us on that," Commissioner Donald I. Dell said Friday.

Mr. Dell has said an environmental assessment done for the county satisfied him that the site would not present future environmental problems.

But two key legislative leaders, Sen. Larry E. Haines, the delegation chairman, and Del. Richard N. Dixon, a ranking Democratic member of the House Appropriations Committee, say they continue to oppose the plan.

Senator Haines, a Realtor, said he is "still waiting" for a professional appraisal of the property he asked the commissioners to provide.

"I'd like to satisfy myself whether I feel comfortable with it, to see if it's a fair price," said the Westminster Republican. He said he also wants to see a report from the Maryland Department of the Environment on the site's problems.

Del. Joseph M. Getty, a freshman Republican, said he plans to support the commissioners' bond issue request and would change his mind only if he saw strong evidence against the purchase.

Commissioner Richard T. Yates said he wants to go ahead with '' the purchase if the county is protected from liability for environmental problems.

"I'm not going to listen to the delegation on that. What I'm concerned about is indemnification," Mr. Yates said.

The delegation, Mr. Yates said, should view the need for space as a state problem as well as a local problem since the Circuit Court, a state agency, needs office space now occupied by the county school system.

If the delegation refuses bond authority, "I really don't know where the money's coming from" Mr. Yates said.

Mr. Dell's answer: "I guess we'd have to get our financial people to do some shopping."

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said he wouldn't discuss the issue until the commissioners meet with the delegation. "I have no understanding at this point that they're not going to be supportive of us," he said.

The commissioners had $32.4 million in unspent money in the county capital fund at the end of June 1994, the most recent date for which information is available.

County Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman said that if the commissioners decided to finance the Telemecanique purchase from those accounts, they could divert money only from the categories of general government, which contained $3.8 million, or education, which contained $8.7 million.

He said he would have to research how much might be bond money that could not be diverted without delegation approval.

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