Taxpayers asked to provide extra $1 million for Rocky Gap

May 07, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

The developer of a state-backed luxury hotel and golf resort near Cumberland is seeking an additional $1 million from taxpayers to pay for cost overruns on the project.

James D. Fielder Jr., acting secretary of business and economic development, said yesterday that the cost of completing Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort will exceed the original estimate of $54 million by 3 percent, or $1.6 million.

Fielder said Maryland Economic Development Corp. (MEDCO), the nonprofit company set up by the state to develop such projects, is seeking $1 million from the Maryland Industrial and Commercial Redevelopment Fund to cover the added costs. He said MEDCO plans to raise the remaining $600,000 from private sources.

According to Fielder, the overrun is the result of a decision to upgrade the complex's elevators and previously reported rain delays in construction of the golf course. He said a 3 percent overrun was "not inconsistent or unreasonable" for a project of Rocky Gap's size.

Rocky Gap, which opened on a limited basis in March, has been a source of controversy since it was proposed in the early 1980s.

Backers of the luxury complex -- a 220-room rustic lakeside lodge and conference center with a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course -- have called it a boon for economic development in Western Maryland. Opponents have derided it as a boondoggle that was spurned by the private sector.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., Rocky Gap's leading champion, said the overrun hasn't changed his mind about the value of the project, which is financed by a combination of taxpayers' money and high-risk, high-interest-rate bonds.

"Generally speaking, overruns are part of life," the Cumberland Democrat said. "I know that the rainy weather for the last year has played havoc with the schedule of the golf course construction."

The proposed $1 million grant will be the subject of a public hearing May 21 at MEDCO's office at 36 S. Charles St. in Baltimore. If approved by the Department of Business and Economic Development, it would be reviewed by the Board of Public Works.

Hans F. Meyer, MEDCO executive director, was out of town and could not be reached to comment.

Pub Date: 5/07/98

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