Town, County Await Word On Warfield

Governments Submit The Only Bids To State For Springfield Site

`Will Get The Pros And Cons'

Proposals Are Similar But The Approaches Reflect Differences

April 22, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County and the town of Sykesville have been competing for a 131-acre site at Springfield Hospital Center since the state announced plans to sell or lease the property 18 months ago.

Now that the deadline for proposals has passed, the two local governments have emerged as the only bidders for the Warfield Complex: 14 historic, but neglected, buildings on what could be prime industrial land along Route 32 in southern Carroll County.

State planner Linda Janey said the property was offered to all other state agencies.

However, Janey said she was not surprised that "no state agency has an interest in acquiring Warfield. Most departments have no need for it, as far as expansion would go."

The two proposals, submitted last week, are similar: Preserve the brick structures, attract industry and create jobs. But the approaches are quite different.

The town of Sykesville sees solid, consistent planning as the means to develop what probably would be a 15-year project. The county is seeking immediate prospects.

Town leaders point to a record of proven management that has seen Sykesville grow by more than 500 residents in the past few years without an increase in property taxes or a burden on existing services.

"You need careful monitoring and updating," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "What the county plans and what gets built are separate things."

The county submitted a $35,000 consultant's study that envisioned a business park, senior housing or a private school campus on the site.

Carroll has the resources to manage and use Warfield to provide a needed economic boost, said Jack Lyburn, county director of economic development, who has identified several prospects.

"Sykesville has plans, we have prospects," Lyburn said.

What happens at Warfield will have a bearing on what the state decides to do with Springfield Hospital. For now, the center, which employs about 800 and houses about 400 patients, remains on a list of three hospitals for the mentally ill that the state might close by 2000.

"Our mission is to keep Springfield open as a hospital and to complement it with this development," Lyburn said.

"Good development will only enhance Springfield's chances."

The state Department of General Services will review the proposals and make its recommendation to the state Board of Public Works, the final authority on disposition of state property.

"We will get the pros and cons for what is in the best interest of the state," said Richard N. Dixon, the state treasurer. "In my 15 months as treasurer, when we get a recommendation for the disposition of state property from experts in General Services, we take it."

Dixon, who sits on the board with the governor and comptroller, calls both proposals attractive. But he will defer to the opinion of state planners, he said.

"The town has an exciting proposal that they have given a lot of thought to," Dixon said. "The county's study is also an attractive package."

Sykesville, with the strongest ties and the most to lose if the site is mismanaged, wants control, municipal officials said.

"The importance of this project for all of South Carroll cannot be understated," Herman said. "We had to come up with a bold proposal to safeguard the interests of the town."

In a 12-page document, the town offered an ambitious plan to acquire Warfield, assume immediate responsibility for its costly maintenance, and to enter into a partnership with the state for its development.

Sykesville is asking for no handouts from the state and is promising to share proceeds from the sale of any lots with the state, Herman said.

The town will hire a marketing director immediately and organize an intensive planning session with business and community leaders this summer.

Sykesville's plan meshes well with the governor's newly enacted Smart Growth legislation, designed to control suburban sprawl and direct development in and around Maryland's municipalities.

"Our proposal spells out clearly what we intend for Warfield and how we are following the governor's Smart Growth initiative," the mayor said. "This is a fine example of using those initiatives, reducing the state's liability and creating both revenue and jobs."

The county's proposal incorporated all the Sykesville ideas, Lyburn said.

"We made sure the consultant talked to Jonathan [Herman] and reported all his ideas," he said.

The county says the town lacks the resources to handle so large a development.

Lyburn plans to air the financial aspects of a Warfield acquisition during a task force meeting Thursday at the hospital.

"We are not working against the county," Herman said. "There is room here for a partnership of state, county and town. I don't see why it can't work, even if we owned Warfield."

Pub Date: 4/22/97

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