Harford Week

September 05, 2004

Opus East picked to build 200-acre technology park

Hoping to capitalize on an increase in defense-related spending nationally and in Harford County, the Army has selected one of the nation's largest commercial real estate developers to build a 200-acre technology park at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

The proposed park could create thousands of jobs in the county, officials said.

Washington-based Opus East LLC signed a contract Thursday with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to head a team of companies that will negotiate a long-term lease for property at Aberdeen.

"It still has to be worked out, but this is a multiyear project and includes a number of facilities," said Opus spokeswoman Janet Reingold. "They are talking about labs, offices, a hotel and conference center. But the negotiating period will really be used to flush out the Army's vision for this."

Officials said they hope the project takes advantage of the growing amount of government defense-related work going to Aberdeen in recent years. The 69,000-acre research and testing facility has spawned millions of dollars of work for defense contractors in Harford County.

According to Army figures, from 1999 to 2002, the number of defense contractors grew from 250 to 950. Meanwhile, contracts awarded to those businesses grew 52 percent, from $288 million to $437 million.

Aberdeen Proving Ground is an important economic driver for Harford County and the Baltimore region, officials said. It employs 46,350 people and is responsible for $774.5 million in annual economic impact in the region.

The proposed technology park is expected to create 8,000 to 10,000 jobs, Reingold said.

The deal with Opus could help the base to attract more defense contractors at a time when federal government spending on the industry has surged. Defense spending is growing by about $50 billion annually and spending on defense-related research and development has more than tripled since 1997, federal statistics show.

Although terms of the contract with Opus are still being negotiated, the Army wants to lease the land to the developer for up to 50 years.

In assembling its plan for the site, the Army hired Spaulding & Slye Colliers Inc. to study the demand from defense contractors.

Results from that study were not released, but Opus will have to compete with other technology and biotechnology parks in the Aberdeen area, including the 89-acre Battelle Eastern Science and Technology Center run by Battelle Memorial Institute, one of the nation's largest nonprofit research and development firms.

Clog causes raw sewage to spill into Bynum Run

A sewer clogged with grease, paper and other debris caused an estimated 12,600 gallons of raw sewage to spill into Bynum Run last week near Bel Air, Harford County officials said.

The spill occurred at a manhole just upstream from a clogged section of 8-inch sanitary sewer. The sewage spill, in a wooded area behind the Greenbriar Apartments, was noticed about 10 a.m. Monday by a person who notified the Maryland Department of the Environment.

MDE investigated the report and notified Harford County Public Works Department's Water and Sewer Division about 12:30 p.m.

County public works department workers finished cleaning up the area around the manhole and the adjacent small stream by about 5 p.m. Monday. Workers spread lime dust on the spill area to sanitize it. No public water supplies were affected, county officials said.

The Water and Sewer Division is monitoring the stream for bacteria.

"This section of sewer will be placed on a more active preventive maintenance schedule as a result of the blockage," said the department's deputy director, Joel Caudill. "The preventive maintenance will consist of increased manhole checks and sewer cleanings followed by a closed-circuit TV inspection."

Overflow warning signs were posted late Monday along Bynum Run from Vanguard Way to MacPhail Road. The county Health Department suggests that the public avoid contact with the water for the next 30 days.

The sewage overflow signs will remain posted until Sept. 30.

5 nominations sent to County Council

The County Council is expected to act Tuesday on five nominations sent over by Harford County Executive James M. Harkins.

J. Wesley Bone of Jarrettsville and Bruce C. Keating of Kingsville seek to be reappointed to the Advisory Board on Aging. Pamela R. Mones of Aberdeen and Vickie Ann Mentzer of Bel Air are seeking appointment to the same panel. If the four candidates are approved, they would each serve until Sept. 30, 2007.

Harkins also has appointed Raymond J. Dombrowski of Bel Air as the Polish Legion of American Veterans representative to the Commission on Veterans' Affairs. If approved, Dombrowki would serve until Dec. 4, 2006.

Three fire companies receive federal grants

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