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Hagerstown won't take over telework center

March 01, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council said Tuesday that the city will not take over the downtown telework center.

Federal funding for the Hagerstown Telework Center will expire March 31 when the U.S. General Services Administration eliminates revenue to its 14 Washington, D.C.-area telework centers.

The GSA eliminated funding to the centers, citing federal budget cuts.

The council agreed to follow City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman's advice to close the telework center and eliminate the related city staff positions.

According to city documents, the city employs Hagerstown Telework Center Director Michael Pellegrino and a part-time worker to manage the center.

Pellegrino was not able to attend Tuesday's meeting. He said previously that he was would be on vacation this week.

Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood said she was uncomfortable with the council discussing the center without Pellegrino present.

"I'm just overall uncomfortable that the most-concerned parties and entities at hand are not given any representation in this discussion," she said. "I find it very hard to believe that this is the only opportunity that we have had to have this discussion."

She said that staff was notified in November that the federal funding was to be cut, and she didn't feel they had given the council sufficient information or time to have an honest conversation about it.

Despite Haywood's objections, the council discussed options for the center and for the 1,890-square-foot space in the Elizabeth Hager Center, where it has operated since 1995.

Zimmerman said the city could possibly provide, with no staffing, a small space for a few teleworkers in the Elizabeth Hager Center starting March 31, but that details for that had not yet been fleshed out.

On Tuesday, he called the option a "softer landing" for the center's closure.

He also mentioned that the adjacent Center for Business and Training rents space in the telework center and will have to come back to the council to formalize its situation.

Councilman Forrest W. Easton said the bottom line was that the center was not something the city could afford to operate.

Zimmerman said the center requires about $99 a day per teleworker to operate. The agencies that employ the teleworkers currently pay the GSA $72 a day per worker.

City Budget Officer Al Martin said the enterprise fund established for the telework center has a balance of nearly $150,000, which would be the city's money after the center closes. The council will need to decide what to do with that money, he said.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the issue was what the city does once the federal funding stops.

"The question becomes, at what stage of the game do we say we can't continue to expend those funds?" he said of the enterprise fund.

"For me, that is March 31," Easton said.

"I don't want the city to subsidize this," Councilman Martin Brubaker said.

While the council decided to close the center, it said it would be open to a third party possibly taking over its operation.

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