Campus contract awarded

The vote of a state board Wednesday ensures the University System of Maryland complex won't become a target of budget cuts.

The vote of a state board Wednesday ensures the University System of Maryland complex won't become a target of budget cuts.

December 19, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

HAGERSTOWN - A Baltimore construction company will be paid $11.25 million to renovate a downtown Hagerstown building complex for the University System of Maryland, a state board voted Wednesday.

Whiting-Turner Contracting beat out Perini Construction of Hagerstown, which bid $13.3 million to do the work, according to Maryland Board of Public Works documents.

The three-member board, made up of Gov. Parris Glendening, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, approved the contract with no discussion at a meeting in Annapolis.


The vote ends speculation that Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich, who will be sworn in Jan. 15, would intervene to move the project out of downtown as some of his supporters had urged.

It also ensures the construction project won't become a target of budget cuts when the state begins in January to address a two-year $1.7 billion deficit, said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

The project was not on the board's original agenda, but Munson said he worked behind the scenes to get it added.

Now that the contract is approved, work can begin shortly at the Baldwin House complex on West Washington Street, said James Salt, director of procurement and real property for the University System's Office of Capital Planning.

If there are no construction delays, the building will be open for classes in the fall of 2004.

After the meeting, Glendening's spokesman praised the project.

"The higher educational center in Hagerstown is one of the governor's signature Smart Growth initiatives," Chuck Porcari said. "It dovetails perfectly with the idea of building within existing infrastructure."

State and local elected officials said they were pleased by the action.

"I'm thrilled that finally it's going to go forward. I know it may not make everyone happy, but it's important to downtown," Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Delegation Chairman Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, said he is glad the contract was approved before the legislative session begins Jan. 8.

"That's one item that's been removed from our plate before we arrive," he said.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner called it a "great Christmas present."

"It certainly will make it a merrier Christmas for the people of Hagerstown," he said.

Hagerstown recently received state grants of nearly $1 million for a companion Open Space project.

The city probably will seek bids in January to tear down the former McCrory's building next to the Baldwin House, which means work can begin in February or March, Breichner said.

City and county officials said they expect Whiting-Turner to use the empty lot to store their construction equipment and materials during the 18-month renovation to ease traffic disruption.

Eventually, the city will develop an urban park on the former McCrory's site, Breichner said.

Whiting-Turner will work from drawings that call for the building's facade to be preserved, Salt said.

The design-build contract allows them to move quickly because they can design pieces of the project as they go, he said.

Callas Contractors of Hagerstown has done more than $1 million worth of work to remove hazardous materials and shore up the deteriorating structure.

During the work, they found areas that were not structurally sound, Salt said.

Whiting-Turner's first order of business will be to determine the magnitude of structural work that will be needed, he said.

Questions also remain about whether there will be enough operating money to make the campus successful once it opens.

The state's higher education budget, which saw large increases under Glendening, may experience cuts under the Ehrlich administration, lawmakers have said.

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