Warehouse purchase OK seems likely 1 councilman still opposes Baltimore County plan

January 12, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Despite the best persuasive efforts of the Ruppersberger administration, County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder continues to oppose buying a Cockeysville warehouse for $2.5 million to house county offices and shops.

However, the Fullerton Democrat may be a lonely opponent when a vote is called at Tuesday night's council meeting. Administration officials expect the purchase to pass easily, which Mr. Bartenfelder does not dispute.

"They've got the votes," Mr. Bartenfelder conceded after a council work session yesterday, adding that he plans to vote against the purchase anyway.

"I think it's a big expenditure when we're downsizing," he said. "We don't need luxuries now."

But county and union officials say luxury is not what they had in mind. "We're trying to give employees a building that serves their operational needs," county administrative officer Merreen E. Kelly told the council.

The former Woodvale Elementary School building in Ruxton that houses building trades workers and the Department of Recreation and Parks building on Washington Avenue in central Towson are so rundown they should be demolished, he said.

These sites, plus a warehouse in East Towson that houses electronics shops, would be sold to offset the cost of the building that the county plans to buy from McCormick & Co.

Edward M. Pedrick Jr., president of Local 921 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, complained that his members constantly are being assigned to "temporary" workplaces that sometimes are little more than sheds.

The debate is characteristic of the dilemma that pits the short-term political need to save money against the long-term practical need to replace outmoded buildings. For example, Fire Department mechanics still use a 1954 garage that is so small they must do half their work outside. The fire academy is similarly outmoded.

The Towson police station, due for replacement in two years, dates to the 1920s, and the county badly needs a new detention center to replace the 1956- and 1854-vintage jail buildings.

The county doesn't have enough money for all these things, especially when new schools and renovations to meet growing school enrollment are the priority, said County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III.

The McCormick warehouse has 83,850 square feet of space and sits on 6 acres in the 11100 block of Gilroy Road in Hunt Valley.

County officials say it is needed to provide work space for carpenters and painters whose shop was destroyed by fire in 1994, for new car preparation and salvage operations, for the electronic services division and for the 41-member headquarters staff of the Department of Recreation and Parks.

After the carpenter-paint shop burned, the county received $700,000 from insurance, which went into the general fund. It plans to use $1.4 million in capital budget money left from other projects to help pay the initial purchase price of the warehouse. No price has been put on renovations.

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