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Firm approved for incentive payment likely not coming to Washington County

Commissioners were going to spend 'up to' $100,000 but only offered $50,000

May 08, 2012|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

The financial services company approved for a potential county incentive payment last year “probably will not be coming to Washington County,” County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said Tuesday.

Murray also elaborated on the incentive agreement, saying the Washington County Board of Commissioners agreed to spend “up to” $100,000 on a potential incentive for the company, but actually offered only $50,000.

The incentive was also contingent on the company moving to the county, creating a certain number of jobs and meeting other conditions that would benefit the county, he said.

If the money had actually been spent, the payment and the name of the company would have been recorded publicly, Murray said.

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He made the comments Tuesday during a board meeting, responding to a Herald-Mail editorial criticizing the commissioners for secrecy in the matter.

The incentive was listed on the county’s 2011 hotel-motel tax fund report under funds approved, but not yet spent, with real estate company Cushman & Wakefield as the payee.

Asked about the item, a county spokeswoman said it was approved in a closed session in March 2011, and the name of the company was protected by a nondisclosure agreement, so only the site consultant was listed on the report.

“When we enter into those type of negotiations, it is not secrecy, it is confidentiality,” Murray said. “And if, indeed, anything comes of those negotiations, we record it publicly.”

That is the same process the county has used to award incentives to other companies that did move to the county, he said.

Reasons for keeping the negotiations confidential may be that the company has not told the lease holder at its current location that it is leaving, is looking at multiple sites or negotiating land deals, he said.

“If we don’t have a confidentiality agreement, they simply won’t look at us at all,” he said.
Murray said in the case of the financial services company, there was never approval for any money to be paid to a third party.

Because the company probably will not come to Washington County, the incentive will be a “nonissue,” Murray said.

“That money will go back in the pot and will be reallocated at a later time,” he said.

The county has not responded to a Maryland Public Information Act request fromThe Herald-Mailseeking records related to the incentive offer.

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