Arundel, Navy officials dispute Taylor site costs

Nearly $1 million spent maintaining former base

April 09, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Officials from Anne Arundel County and the Navy are at odds over how much the military should pay for nearly $1 million in maintenance work at the former David Taylor Research Center.

The Navy has agreed to pay $15,000, but government officials say the county is seeking substantially more - leading to another complication in the long-planned and frequently delayed redevelopment of the shuttered base.

"We're working on it," Jerome W. Klasmeier, special projects coordinator for County Executive Janet S. Owens, said yesterday, referring to the roughly $555,000 in overdue payments owed to Harza Engineering Co. for its work last year at the base.

The county has paid $440,000 to the Chicago-based firm.

Klasmeier, with William A. Badger, president and chief executive officer of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., said the Navy should pay more than the $15,000 it has offered. They did not give a specific figure.

As a result of the impasse, the county might appeal to a higher authority within the Navy, and might seek help from area congressmen.

At the heart of the dispute are two legal documents, one of which expired in December 2000, and a verbal agreement that both sides say has been misinterpreted.

When the Navy closed the site three years ago, the military and the county entered into a caretaker agreement in which they would share costs to maintain the site. But when that agreement expired more than a year ago, Navy officials rejected the county's request to extend it, Klasmeier said.

Instead, according to Klasmeier and other county officials, Navy officials said that maintenance costs, and who pays them, would be covered by a master lease, to which the county and the Navy are party.

"We were told by a senior naval official that, `We will take care of you,'" said Badger of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., a county agency that contracted with Harza in 1999 to keep the site clean and in working condition until Annapolis Partners LLC, developers of the planned, $250 million project, could take it over.

Navy officials say they will cover their share of maintenance costs.

"The [caretaker agreement] ... was not renewed because of excessive administrative costs and the prospect of an imminent property conveyance," according to a written statement released to The Sun yesterday by Elaine McNeil, a public affairs officer for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Washington.

"In February of this year the county asked the Navy to review the costs incurred since December 2000," the release continues. "Navy's review of county expenses identified approximately $15,000 in maintenance costs. ... The Navy has agreed to provide reimbursement for this work."

McNeil declined to be more specific about the billing dispute, and other Navy officials could not be reached for comment yesterday evening.

About $533,000 of the Harza bill was spent on utilities, including water needed to feed a worn steam heating system, which was later shut down.

Harza officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The David Taylor redevelopment project, which has been in the works for nearly a decade, is expected to take at least a dozen years to finish. County officials are working with Annapolis Partners to put the finishing touches on a redevelopment agreement. That document could be presented to an advisory committee later this week. Enabling legislation to transfer the property to developers could be introduced to the County Council next month.

Owens is expected to promote the project, which could significantly bolster the local commercial tax base, during her re-election campaign.

"I know the county executive is frustrated that it has taken this long," said Matt Diehl, a spokesman for Owens, who added that she is aware of the billing dispute. "She hopes that we can finally move this thing to an end point."

Said Badger: "We are just trying to resolve this issue and move on. We have bigger things to work on, like transferring the base."

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