State plans to reimburse Sykesville for money spent on Warfield project

Officials also may invest $3.5 million in restoration

April 05, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The state Board of Public Works will reimburse Sykesville nearly $250,000, paying all the town's expenses so far to develop aging buildings of the Warfield Complex at Springfield Hospital Center, state officials said yesterday.

The town's plans to create a business campus on the 138-acre parcel along Route 32 also might get a $3.5 million boost today from the state board, which is expected to allocate the funds to begin restoring two of Warfield's 14 buildings into a police training center.

In its session today, the board is expected to approve $232,700 in planning money for the town. "It is a done deal," said state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon.

Also on the agenda is design money for the academic and administrative phase of the Maryland Public Safety Training Center, which will be housed in the Hubner and `T' buildings at Warfield.

"This is great news for South Carroll," said Dixon, a former Carroll legislator who championed locating the center in his home county for 13 years. "Everything we do to move the police training project along makes me happy. This is the first step along the way, and we are helping the town on its project, too."

The money will be from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which announced in January that it had selected two Warfield buildings as part of the public safety center, a project that includes a drivers' training course and shooting range. Both have been built on the land adjacent to Springfield Hospital Center.

The buildings at Warfield were once hospital wards for Springfield. When the state announced plans in 1996 to declare Warfield as surplus property, Sykesville proposed creating a state-county-town partnership to restore and market the complex.

As part of the partnership, the state approved the town's proposal for annexing Warfield more than two years ago.

Sykesville organized a weeklong planning session that produced an ambitious plan for a business, academic and residential complex. Construction would include an 80-room hotel. The cost of what was expected to be a 20-year project was estimated at $20 million.

But the center and Sykesville's plans came to a halt last year. The governor scrapped, then revived, plans to complete the center in Sykesville, and the General Assembly eliminated $200,000 in planning funds for the town.

Sykesville had spent money on consultants, engineering and surveys, in anticipation of a state refund.

"All along, we have said this project would not be a burden on town taxpayers," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "So, in effect, we had no funds to spend."

He was determined to get state money this year. He was notified yesterday his efforts were successful.

"We are being reimbursed for everything we have done to date," he said. "It shows the governor stands behind his word."

The selection of Hubner, the largest building in the complex, has put the town's plans back on track with "an anchor tenant and an enormous amount of infrastructure" for Warfield, said Herman.

"I am elated," said Herman. "This is the partnership we hoped to forge with the state. We are working now on a long-term lease that will enable us to proceed with development."

Dixon confirmed what state officials also told Herman: The deed to Warfield will soon be transferred to the town.

Herman has met with county officials, in hopes of bringing the county on board. He has asked for a waiver of water and sewer hook-up fees and for marketing assistance from the county Department of Economic Development.

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