AlliedSignal proposal gets no opposition Vote due on building purchase in 2 weeks

September 16, 1997|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

The deal to keep AlliedSignal in Columbia breezed through the first round of scrutiny at the Howard County Council last night.

The vote is still two weeks away, but not a single citizen, business or group spoke up last night to oppose the deal in which the county would spend $7.5 million to purchase the aging headquarters of AlliedSignal Technical Services Corp.

The company employs 900 workers in Howard, and county officials say the deal would keep the company from moving closer to Washington, perhaps to Virginia.

Officials also say the county could use the office and warehouse space at AlliedSignal, a 200,000-square-foot building, with 32,000 square feet of warehouse space on 29 acres on Bendix Road.

"It's a good opportunity, I think," said Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a West Friendship Republican.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker, also a Republican, proposed the deal. His economic development initiatives typically receive support from the County Council, particularly from its Republican majority.

But council members say they will evaluate the deal primarily as a real estate transaction.

"Do we have a need that we would otherwise spend resources on? And is this a good real estate transaction?" said Council Chairman Dennis R. Schrader, a Republican. "I think those are the two questions."

Some county agencies and the school system now spend more than $1 million a year renting office and warehouse space. The purchase of the AlliedSignal building would allow them to move into new space and eliminate that expense.

AlliedSignal has had its headquarters on Bendix Road for nearly 30 years. It is looking to build a new office of about 120,000 square feet in Columbia. If it doesn't do so, Ecker says the deal with the county is off.

County officials are also negotiating a lease deal under which AlliedSignal would rent its its headquarters from the county until its new building is finished.

Raquel Sanudo, county chief administrative officer, says that period could last as long as 18 months after a sale to the county is completed.

The terms of that lease and some other details are scheduled to be discussed in a closed-door work session next Monday night. Parts of that meeting will be public.

"There are certain things that should not be public until after final negotiations," Sanudo said.

Also last night, council Republicans indicated their support for a new retirement package for county firefighters.

Earlier this year, Republicans rejected a retirement package that would have allowed firefighters to retire with full benefits -- half their annual salary every year for the rest of their lives -- after 20 years on the job.

Republicans later offered, however, to improve retirement for those who stay the usual 25 years. The new package would give those firefighters annual payments equal to 57 1/2 percent of their salaries. For those who stay 30 years, the payments would equal 65 percent of their final salaries.

"I'm glad that the firefighters came back" to the bargaining table, said Councilman Darrel E. Drown, an Ellicott City Republican. "I think we have a win-win situation here."

Pub Date: 9/16/97

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