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PenMar board requirement is relaxed

February 13, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Lawmakers voted Thursday to relax the residency requirement they are seeking to impose on the board redeveloping the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base in Cascade.

Legislation being proposed by the Washington County Delegation still would dissolve the current 15-member PenMar Development Corp. board and replace it with a new nine-member board.

But instead of requiring all nine board members to live in Washington County, as they offered last week, lawmakers now would allow two out-of-county board members as long as they live within 25 miles of Cascade.

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The chair and vice chair of the board would have to be Washington County residents, which effectively would remove Chairman Ronald Sulchek of Sabillasville, Md.

Delegation Chairman Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said the changes were made to address concerns raised by commissioners, board members and Cascade-area residents.

"We don't want to do anything that would disrupt the stability of PenMar, while recognizing there should be additional oversight," he said.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said easing the residency requirement will allow for more continuity on the board, which was a concern.

The commissioners have not taken a position on the legislation.

Sulchek said the legislation is not needed and could jeopardize some economic development prospects the board has been working on.

"There really wasn't anything broke that needed fixing," he said.

Lawmakers said they wanted to protect the county from liability and make sure the board focuses on creating jobs rather than residential or recreational development.

But Sulchek said PenMar, not the county, will be liable for any costs associated with redeveloping the base that closed in 1998.

"I think it shows a lack of business experience," he said.

Karl Weissenbach of the Cascade Committee said while easing the residency requirement is a step in the right direction, he opposes the legislation.

Weissenbach said he believes former board members manipulated Shank to introduce legislation that would punish the current board.

"We resent that the Delegation is more interested in listening to a powerful few than hearing the concerns of a community who is justifiably opposed to this punitive legislation being introduced by Del. Shank," he said.

Sulchek agreed.

"Why now? Where have they been for six years?" he said.

After tweaking the proposal Thursday, the eight-member Washington County Delegation voted unanimously to introduce the legislation.

If it passes, the current board would be dissolved. Washington County Commissioners would appoint five members and lawmakers would appoint four.

Board members could serve up to two three-year terms, which also was a change from the original plan.

In addition to changing the board makeup, the legislation would:

  • Increase oversight of the board by requiring the commissioners to sign off before any master lease is signed or any money is borrowed.

  • Clarify that PenMar is subject to the Open Meetings Act.

  • Require any future executive directors to live in Washington County and have no outside business interests.

  • Increase oversight of the board by requiring the commissioners to sign off before any master lease is signed or any money is borrowed.

  • Increase state oversight of the board by requiring the Secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development to provide input on any master lease agreement.

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