Council OKs funding for Reisterstown park

$445,000 added for athletic field/ice rink complex

January 17, 2007|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,sun reporter

The Baltimore County Council approved last night additional money for construction of an indoor athletic field and the county's only ice rink at Reisterstown Regional Park.

The measure authorizes the county to spend an additional $445,000 on the facility, using money left over from an unrelated construction project that came in under budget.

The council approved the ice rink project in March, with the county government and the Baltimore County Revenue Authority splitting the $5 million tab. But the authority recently told county officials that the project cost had increased to $5.9 million, largely because of the rising prices of building materials.

Council members voiced concern about the increased expenses. But Councilman John A. Olszewski Sr. said yesterday he is still convinced of the project's worthiness.

"It's a benefit to the residents of Baltimore County in providing the recreational resources for hockey games and practices for individuals," said Olszewski, a Dundalk Democrat.

Plans call for a 58,000- square-foot building that would house an artificial turf field and an ice rink at the park, near Interstate 795 and Westminster Pike. The field would be used by youth soccer, lacrosse and field hockey programs at no cost. The rink would be available to hockey teams and skaters for fees charged by the Revenue Authority.

"I'm sure we'll rent big blocks of time to ice hockey clubs," said George Hale, the authority's executive director. "There will be a mix of individual lessons, public skating, skating clubs."

The closest public ice rinks are in Abingdon in Harford County and Baltimore, he said. "Most of the rinks we'd be competing with are over 30 miles away," Hale said.

Construction is set to begin in March, with the facility possibly opening by next January, Hale said.

Under an agreement signed last year, the authority will operate the ice rink, collecting all the revenue, while the county government will run the athletic field.

The additional money approved last night brings total county spending on the project to $2.945 million. Hale said that construction bids for the project were higher than expected, and he pointed to a December industry report that construction costs across the country increased by more than 7 percent in the previous year.

"We're dealing with something that unfortunately happens quite often in government construction projects," Hale said, referring to cost overruns. He added that he was confident the authority would not have to approach the county again for more money.

Hale estimated that the ice rink would bring in $150,000 a year after operating expenses.

Also last night, the council confirmed County Executive James T. Smith Jr.'s choices for department heads. Smith made no changes among them, recommending that they all serve another four-year term.

The council approved the government's purchase of three apartment buildings in Dundalk for $935,000.

The buildings, part of the dilapidated Yorkway complex, are being bought under a plan to redevelop the neighborhood. Once all 56 buildings are purchased, the government plans to raze them and sell the land for a new development.

And the council approved plans by Bozzuto Homes to build 160 residential units, most of them condominiums and townhouses on 9 acres in downtown Towson that was once the site of student housing. The Towson Manor Village was approved after two and a half years of planning that involved community input, said Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Towson-Perry Hall Democrat.

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