Frederick County looks at selling two downtown offices -- Gazette.Net







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A task force has tentatively proposed moving several county government departments out of their buildings on Market Street in downtown Frederick and relocating about 100 workers, with a final recommendation expected in about two months.

The Frederick County Building Consolidation Task Force was formed in June to examine how government space is being used. Charles Nipe, head of the county Department of Facilities and Project Services, gave the Frederick County Board of Commissioners a preliminary report on the group’s findings on Thursday.

Nipe said the group has recommended moving the county Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments from their home at 118 N. Market St. to the former site of the Montevue assisted-living facility on Montevue Lane.

The six-member task force — composed of the county manager and the directors of county finance, public works, community development, parks and recreation, and project services — also considered moving the county Treasury Department and Community Development Division from their offices at 30 N. Market St. But the panel rejected that idea because the county still owes nearly $6.7 million in debt from the purchase and renovations of that building.

But Frederick County Board of Commissioners President Blaine R. Young (R) called the two Market Street properties “premiere” downtown locations. He said it was time to put them back on the tax rolls to generate income for both the county and city by selling them to private businesses.

Government buildings, along with buildings such as churches and schools, don’t generate property taxes.

The commissioners would make the final decision on whether to vacate the buildings and put them up for sale.

The building at 118 North Market St. is assessed at $2,081,600, according to the county Finance Department. If the building were privately owned, it would generate annual county taxes of $16,923, an urban fire tax of $2,664 and a city tax of $15,237.

The assessed value of 30 N. Market St. is $3,138,900. It would generate annual taxes of $25,519 for the county, a fire tax of $4,016 and $22,976 for the city.

The move from 118 North Market St. would affect about 51 employees, while the 30 N. Market St. building houses about 75 employees.

Young asked County Manager Dave Dunn to make sure the city of Frederick was briefed on the county’s plans.

Josh Russin, executive assistant to Frederick Mayor Randy McClement, said that depending on what types of businesses go into 118 North Market St., they could provide a benefit to the city by having people at the buildings beyond just the normal workday.

“Anything that helps enhance existing business space, we view that as a positive,” Russin said.

The commissioners voted 3-1 Thursday to delay the scheduled September demolition of the Montevue building and allow public works to spend money on a structural analysis to see if it is feasible to move the county departments there. Commissioner David Gray (R) was absent.

The assisted-living facility recently moved to Rosemont Avenue.

Commissioner Kirby Delauter (R) voted against the move, calling the Montevue property a potential “money pit” that ought to be torn down.

Nipe said it would have been hard to make needed repairs to the building while the assisted-living residents were still in it.

Delauter said he’d like to see the county get rid of both Market Street buildings.

“I’m not a fan of any governments owning buildings,” Delauter said. “It takes [a building] off the tax rolls, your tax base is diminished.... [Private ownership] leaves you out of it to focus on your core government services rather than being a Realtor.”

But Commissioner Paul Smith (R) said he would be interested in exploring the potential of the Montevue property.

“I see the potential of considerable savings,” Smith said.

The building at 118 North Market St. has significant commercial value, and could generate money for the county both through tax revenues and having another business in the site generating income, Smith said.

The task force will return to the commissioners within 60 days with final recommendations and a timeline for the changes, but the move could happen within 18 months, Dunn said.