Council approves plan to buy research center Purchase of surplus site in Annapolis will help keep 500 jobs in county

May 19, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County Council approved a plan last night for the county to acquire a Department of Defense research center -- declared surplus in 1995 -- that will help keep more than 500 prized high-technology jobs in the county.

The plan for the 40-acre David Taylor Research Center in Annapolis differs from initial proposals to demolish the buildings and sell the parcel at the mouth of the Severn River to developers. The developers wanted to build a complex of corporate, residential and commercial space.

The $800,000 per-acre price for demolition proved too expensive for the county, said Samuel F. Minnittee, chief of staff for County Executive John G. Gary.

Instead, the plan approved unanimously by the seven-member council calls for the county to lease the center and a nearby obsolete missile-silo site from the U.S. government while federal officials conduct an environmental cleanup. During the cleanup, the county would sublease existing buildings to research and engineering firms while negotiating a purchase price.

The county especially wants to keep as tenants the Navy's Joint Spectrum Center and its primary contractor, IIT Research Institute, which has more than 500 employees, most of them electrical and software engineers.

"The impetus right now is to take the next step and to ensure that the JSC and IIT remain in the county," said Councilwoman Diane R. Evans, an Arnold Democrat who served on the committee that developed the reuse plan. "They are critically important to our economic base."

The decision means the JSC can stay at the center for free instead of finding new quarters to lease for $300,000 to $500,000 a year, said Capt. Rusty Yeiser, commander of the JSC.

In other business, council members rejected a measure that would have allowed voters to decide whether the council should appoint some members of the County Ethics Commission. The county executive currently appoints all members of the commission, which reviews practices by county employees and elected officials.

By a vote of 4-3, the council rejected the resolution proposed in March by Councilman James DeGrange, a Glen Burnie Democrat, and supported by Evans.

The proposed amendment to the County Charter would have expanded the commission from seven members to nine, with two appointments by the County Council. Once members left the commission, the county executive would appoint two and the council would appoint seven.

"I think that submitting it to the voters sends an important message that you care about ethics," Kathleen Skullney, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, a government watchdog group, said at the hearing.

Councilman George F. Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat joined DeGrange and Evans in voting for the resolution. Councilmen Thomas W. Redmond Sr., a Pasadena Democrat; William C. Mulford II, an Annapolis Republican; John J. Klocko III, a Crofton Republican; and Council Chairman Bert L. Rice, an Odenton Republican voted against the resolution.

Pub Date: 5/19/98

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