State says no to bid for audit

Golf course is already under study, county is told

October 27, 2004|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Two state lawmakers have turned down Anne Arundel County's request for a legislative audit of how a quasi-state agency spent $17.6 million in bond money on a Pasadena golf course that remains unfinished.

The Maryland Economic Development Corp. has run into financial problems building the 36-hole Compass Pointe course, which was to have been completed in May last year. Twenty-seven holes are open. The agency has said it needs another $3 million to finish the project.

County Executive Janet S. Owens and Council President C. Edward Middlebrooks requested a review of the project last month from the state Office of Legislative Audits.

But two state legislators wrote in a letter Friday that such a review would be redundant, because the agency has commissioned a private audit and has offered to share its financial records with county lawmakers.

"There is no apparent impediment for the county, rather than the state, to use its resources to address the concerns," wrote Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden of Baltimore and Del. Charles E. Barkley of Gaithersburg, who serve as chairmen of the state legislature's Joint Audit Committee.

County officials took the state's rejection in stride.

"As the letter states, MEDCO has an audit under way, which is good news," said Owens spokeswoman Jody Couser. "But no auditor can redress the bad weather and construction problems that this project has faced. We must move forward and complete the project."

Middlebrooks said yesterday that the letter "raises some valid points" but that he wanted to talk with Owens before saying what the council would do next.

County leaders have said they're contemplating a takeover of the troubled project. The county lent MEDCO $1.1 million this year to help cover operating shortfalls. In the months since, county leaders have complained that they were asked to give the agency the loan without sufficient explanation of where the project went wrong.

Owens and Middlebrooks said they hoped to find that explanation with the state audit.

MEDCO officials have blamed financial difficulties on a late opening caused by wet weather last year.

Under the current agreement with MEDCO, the county is supposed to take control of the golf course when the agency's bonds are paid off in 25 to 30 years.

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