Connecting Random House

Industry: Westminster, Carroll County, publisher and mission need to cooperate for site expansion.

August 23, 1999

COMMON SENSE and a sense of common purpose could clear up the complicated embroglio over Random House's $30 million expansion plans and the book distributor's need for added water and sewer services from the city of Westminster.

To provide extended utilities to the site, Westminster wants to annex it. Random House objects to paying city property taxes, estimated at more than $100,000 a year. But the firm would get lower rates on water and sewer service than it now pays.

Random House got $3.5 million in state and county aid this year to put its sole national distribution center in Carroll County. There's little disagreement about the importance of the expansion, which will assure 900 jobs at the site on Lucabaugh Mill Road. But Westminster officials are miffed because the county excluded them from the state-county talks with Random House.

There's also the complication that Random House is buying 10 acres to complete its warehouse expansion. The owner, Westminster Rescue Mission, recently got city water and sewer service for an adjacent parcel on which to build an addictions treatment center.

But Westminster officials appear adamant that they will not extend services to Random House without annexation. They fear setting a precedent that could encourage further demands by industries on limited city resources.

The county could play an important role, offering a tax credit to offset some of the city taxes on Random House after city annexation. The city can agree and perhaps offer a tax incentive of its own, while extending utilities.

The deal requires strong cooperation, from all the public and private parties, to solidify the benefits of the Random House expansion. That's important for Carroll's largest for-profit employer and for county economic development.

Pub Date: 8/23/99

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