Bainbridge board delays contract vote

Development agency wants more legal advice

`We need a second opinion'

Tech-park plan support voiced at county meeting

Cecil County

November 09, 2003|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Directors of the Bainbridge Development Corp. have delayed a vote scheduled for tomorrow night to determine the fate of one of the largest industrial development projects in the state.

The BDC, a quasi-public agency created by the General Assembly in 1999, was to vote on construction of a 500-acre technology park at the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center near Port Deposit that is expected to create 3,000 jobs.

Cynthia Rossetti, chairwoman of the BDC, said directors were to vote tomorrow on a plan that would allow Berkshire Laboratories Inc. to locate at Bainbridge. That meeting was postponed Friday afternoon. She said that no new date has been set.

"We need a second opinion to make sure the contract is most beneficial to the BDC," Rossetti said.

"We need some more legal advice. We are going to be living with this contract for a long time. We need to be able to make informed decisions," she said.

Rossetti said legal advisers would be brought in to go over the contract with BDC members.

Berkshire is a small and privately funded research center based in Columbus, Ohio. It wants to base its operations at Bainbridge, where it would be the centerpiece of a cluster of partner companies seeking to develop commercial opportunities for Berkshire's patented technologies.

Berkshire officials call the company's work area "spectral science."

Scientists who understand its research say that it has the potential to put the United States out in front of the world in a variety of areas ranging from computer data storage techniques, to plant growth, to semiconductors.

Mark G. Mortenson, a consultant and patent attorney working with Berkshire, said the company's technology could be used to eliminate industrial pollutants while making industrial machinery last longer.

It can also be used to eliminate unwanted and sometimes dangerous side effects of certain medicines and make U.S. manufacturing plants competitive with cheap labor in other parts of the world.

W. Paul Gilbert, director of Cecil County's economic development office, said Berkshire's proposal "has the potential of making Cecil County, almost overnight, a major hub of technology on the East Coast."

BDC directors were to vote on an agreement worked out between the organization and a team that would develop the 500 acres of the Bainbridge property to accommodate Berkshire.

Development team

The development team includes Richard M. Alter, president of Manekin LLC, in Columbia; Clark Turner, president of Bel Air-based Clark Turner Cos.; and John Paterakis, a commercial developer in Baltimore.

Rossetti said "approval of the agreement would give Berkshire the go-ahead."

She said each of the BDC directors received a copy of the agreement Tuesday. "I wanted them to have time to read it carefully, to consult with outsiders if they feel that is necessary. It's a 90-page document."

The BDC was criticized for its closed-door sessions before Rossetti took over as chairwoman. "I'm anxious for deliberation in public to take place," she said.

The unexpected postponement comes after a week of intensified lobbying on the part of both proponents and opponents of the proposed development plan for Bainbridge.

About 75 county residents attended the regularly scheduled meeting of the Cecil County commissioners Tuesday in Elkton to show their support for Berkshire.

They included the president of Cecil Community College, the president of the college foundation, a member of the Port Deposit Planning and Zoning Commission and the head of the Greater Perryville Chamber of Commerce. Most wore red tags with white letters reading "Bainbridge Now."

There were ordinary citizens, like Bob Kuhs, who has lived in Port Deposit since 1988, who said he should have been more active in the past in showing his support for the development of Bainbridge.

He said the redevelopment of Bainbridge would result in a new water and sewerage system for Port Deposit that would cost users about 25 percent less than they are paying.

"That will not happen if the developers walk away," he said.

Casey Dixon, a student at Cecil Community College, said she welcomed the jobs that Berkshire is expected to generate. She said she has friends who have had to leave the county after completing their education to find work.

New wealth

Gary Tennis read a statement from the mayor of Port Deposit and town commissioners who said the average salary of Berkshire workers will be $80,000 a year. "That translates into a $240 million annual payroll," he said.

Tennis said the Berkshire project could generate $2.5 billion in new wealth in the region, resulting in creation of businesses and would create more than 1,000 construction jobs for more than 15 years.

"This represents an exciting opportunity for us," said W. Stephen Pannill, president of the community college. He said there have always been people who are skeptical of new technology, including those who questioned the Wright brothers and their flying machine.

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