The city’s 62nd administration officially took office Thursday, and one day into the job, Mayor Michael O’Connor was fielding his first public question about the proposed downtown hotel and conference center.

Peter Samuel, long a vocal opponent of the project, sat in the front row at O’Connor’s first press briefing Friday at City Hall. And when it came time for public questions, Samuel jumped at the chance to ask the mayor and former alderman how he plans to approach the project. In the same breath, Samuel also took a dig at former Mayor Randy McClement for his efforts promoting the project and moving it through the steps.

O’Connor’s answer did not address Samuel’s criticisms of McClement, which included the appointment of Mark Gaver as the first chairman of the Downtown Hotel Advisory Committee in 2010. Gaver is facing federal charges in a $50 million bank fraud case, allegations not involving any part of the hotel project. The mayor did say the hotel project is a high priority about which he is already having discussions, but he declined to give any information beyond a pledge to work with the project partners to move it along.

“What I am cautious about doing over the next four years is committing to a timeline that I don’t feel I can meet,” he said. “I am not prepared to stand up here today and give details on what I would or would not do differently. I know we will do everything we can as a city to work with our partners on that project.”

He also vowed to remain transparent throughout the process.

“I have no desire to hide anything we don’t have to hide,” O’Connor said.

The planned four-story, 180-room hotel and 20,000-square-foot conference center at 200-212 E. Patrick St. are set to come to fruition with both public and private dollars. Developers Plamondon Hospitality Partners are putting in the lion’s share of the funding, and the city, Frederick County and the state of Maryland are set to pay the remainder of the multimillion-dollar cost.

The project is currently in the design phase, with processes running parallel through the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and Maryland Historical Trust to design the buildings and develop a plan to identify and mitigate the historic elements of the existing site. The state’s share of the money is still held up with the Board of Public Works. Board members must cast the final vote for its release.

O’Connor said after Friday’s press briefing that he is waiting for city officials, developers, and members of the trust and Department of Housing and Community Development to ink a memorandum of understanding mapping out the details of the mitigation plans before he plans to lobby for the state money.

“My understanding is that we need more information regarding the MHT process,” he said. “Once that is complete we will have a better case for the Board of Public Works to release the funds.”

As an alderman, O’Connor voted consistently in favor of the city supporting the project over the past eight years.

No huge surprises in final city candidate campaign finance reports

On Dec. 7, the candidates who ran for city office in the 2017 primary and general elections were required to submit their fourth and final campaign finance reports.

According to the submitted reports, which are listed on the city’s election website, the earnings then-Mayor McClement reported in the homestretch between Oct. 28 and Dec. 3 exceeded the total amount of money O’Connor reportedly earned by about $1,500. In the first three reports, O’Connor raised more money than McClement each time.

McClement also reported slightly more cash on hand in his ending balance, at $6,850 to O’Connor’s $6,615.

The reports also show McClement shelled out $2,000 from his campaign funds for his election night party at Brewer’s Alley, and that the Frederick County Republican Central Committee reimbursed $500 of the total.

O’Connor’s election night bash at La Paz restaurant reportedly cost him $848, according to his expense report.

The Board of Aldermen candidates’ earnings during the time period of the fourth report pretty much followed the trends of the first three, with the reports submitted showing the Democratic candidates far outpacing the Republicans. The efforts apparently paid off, too, because all five of the Democrats who ran were elected during the Nov. 7 election.

Democratic Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak, who was re-elected to a second consecutive term, raised the most of any of the candidates for the time period at $2,325. New Alderman Ben MacShane reported the next highest earnings for the time period, followed by Alderwoman Kelly Russell, who was re-elected to a third consecutive term. New Alderman Roger Wilson raised the fourth highest amount of money, followed by newly elected Alderman Derek Shackelford.

Katie Bowersox, a Republican candidate who did not respond to multiple attempts for interviews and did not respond to any survey questions during the campaign process, raised the most of any of the four balloted GOP candidates who turned gun reports from Oct. 28 to Dec. 3. Alan Imhoff reported the second highest earnings, followed by Hayden Duke and Nate Power. A fourth campaign finance report from GOP candidate Bryan Chaney was not posted on the city’s website.

The latest report is also the first time Power, who raised only $200 throughout his campaign, reported any expenses. The expenses, according to the report, were for yard signs, bank fees and a television advertisement.

Follow Mallory Panuska on Twitter: @MalloryPanuska.

(27) comments

rbtdt5

Frederick wants and needs this. Not one tax dollar is going toward this hotel.

KellyAlzan

Public dollars that derived from the people, exist FOR the people, of Maryland ARE going toward this hotel. Money that can / should be spent on schools, education, police, fire, emt, etc

sofanna

The original funding plan for this project DID NOT include taxpayer money. We were never allowed to vote on this issue. The citizens of Frederick County will probably never have the opportunity to use this calamity being thrust upon us. I would much prefer my tax dollars to fund SCHOOLS. Again, the residents of Frederick County were hoodwinked. We didn't agree that our tax dollars could be spent on this frivolous project. Yet, it's okay if schools are overcrowded, teacher compensation is pathetic, special education students need special education trained teachers, with overcrowded classrooms, teachers need additional help, which they probably won't get. So to fund this hotel calamity, our children will NOT get the education they need.

jerseygrl42

Its ALL about the MONEY ALWAYS.....

Burgessdr

Soffana. First of all it is a city project not a county project. Second the residents of Frederick did vote on it. ICYMI Civics 101 we have a representative form of government and the voters elected Mayors and BOA that have supported it going back to Grimes in 1996.

Frayou

On another note Montgomery County coughed up 60 million dollar tax avoidance incentive to keep Marriott corporate headquarters in Bethesda. On top of federal proposed corporate tax reduction scheduled to be passed next week by congress. But we all will benefit in the long run, right?

jerseygrl42

Mallory, we understand your bias as one of the two families that will profit from this deal is your former employer; however the taxpayers are putting up $31 Million or 37.3% of the total $ 83 million project as reported in this paper....and 100% of the profit will NOT go to the taxpayers ...so please tell us how this is such a good deal for the taxpayers while we have according to Jan Gardner $500 Million infra-structure debt due to actions of prior BoCC's and developers ....please tell us how this one is any different

petersamuel

I’m not an “opponent of the project” to get a hotel downtown. I’m an opponent of the City government’s inept and unprincipled conduct of this project under Mayor McClement. Inept in that after eight years of putzing around wasting millions of dollars all we’ve got is a site quite unsuited to a hotel of this size and complexity, plans that require the removal of an important historic building and promise traffic chaos for lack of vehicle access. Unprincipled in its fake competed procurement, in the behind-closed-doors meetings of the Mayor’s hotel advisory committee, and in the boondoggle doling out of tens of millions of dollars of public funds to a single favored developer. Mayor McClement’s plan involves the City in buying the land for Plamondon and building an expensive City parking deck under his hotel. This puts on taxpayers all the risks and expense of building Plamondon’s foundations in a flood plain and dealing with any hazardous waste and archeological obligations, and is liable to become the most expensive parking garage per car space outside New York City. We now have a project that is very different from that envisaged in the procurement RFP and MOU contract of 2015, but the new allocation of costs and responsibilities are shrouded in secrecy. This is a case study in how NOT to get hotel lodging downtown. Meanwhile a modest pair of entrepreneurs are showing how to do the job properly on the site of the old Visitation Academy. They bought the land themselves. They propose repurposing of the historic building, not a wrecking ball. Their design is scaled to the neighborhood. And they are NOT asking for tens of millions of taxpayer $s. P Samuel

jerseygrl42

Your comments are spot-on Mr. Samuel, by the way, do you know if the parking garage is or is not part of the $83 Million

Burgessdr

The Visitation Academy owners intend to seek 20-40% state and federal tax credits for their project. Yes, it is not tens of millions, but it would be millions. P. Samuel misinformation.

KellyAlzan

Thanks for the great feedback! Can you furnish us with a hyperlink containing this information?

Thanks and have a great week :)

petersamuel

Mr Burgess: state and federal tax credits for historic preservation are available to anyone who does that kind of historic preservation. Quite different from the one-off behind-closed door deal that puts some $30m of city, county and state money into the proposed Plamondon hotel. It is just wrong for the public to be billed for buying the land and providing the foundations -- and many other expenses -- of the Plamondon hotel.

gary4books

Thank you for sharing.

KellyAlzan

And keep in mind, there is a hotel coming to harpers ferry, of close to the same dollar amount. And no public money is being used. All privately funded. So, fredericks hotel CAN happen without state, city, or county money.

elymus43

Thank you Mr. Samuel for speaking up with your question. Both mayoral candidates.pushed for the new hotel. Hopefully the state will not fund this new hotel?? The article mentioned the parties involved will be LOBBYING FOR STATE MONEY for the hotel.

jerseygrl42

no matter which pocket it comes from ; it is ALL taxpayer money and some of these folks just can't get enough of it

KellyAlzan

Can anyone enlighten us who are opposed as to how we can contact the appropriate individuals and beg for them to deny funding?

petersamuel

$16m of state money that the legislature voted the project still has to be approved by the state Board of Public Works before it can be released. State law requires that the BPW be assured the project was competed in a fair and competitive procurement. Clearly this was a fraudulent procurement, so by law the BPW should withhold the $16m. People can write the BPW alerting them to the sordid details of this deal. And remember the first chairman of the Mayor's advisory committee Mark Gaver set the tone for this project and its behind-closed-door practices and he is now in detention in Baltimore waiting trial for $50m of bank fraud.

KellyAlzan

peter - I am happy to write to the board of public works. Please understand, I am just a country hick and I'm not in the know of who to write.

Can you provide us with the entity name, address, and who to attention the letter to?

Also, I am well aware that the City steered the project to the Plamandoon Brothers. That's what irks me. Because I know there are investors out there that CAN develop this without any public dollars. With that said, can you provide some factual statements about this crooked deal, so I/we can address them intelligently in our letter(s)?

I'm totally against public dollars being used for this. Totally unhappy about the process of steering the project to the Plamandoons. I'm willing to write to whoever we need to write to, I just need some guidance in the content of the letter.

gary4books

Beg? So our visitors can not stay over night in a convenient hotel? If the market could produce a hotel without some assistance we would have one now. The money spent will provide extra customers for all the local businesses near the hotel. That is why these projects have support from government - they help the community. With all the local support, the hotel will be constructed and used. Then we will see how many bed bugs arrive. I suggest you should never beg for favors and really never beg to harm local businesses.

KellyAlzan

Gary - not when we have overcrowded schools, no.

gardenwhimsey

“I have no desire to hide anything we don’t have to hide,” O’Connor said." Which tells me he is already hiding things.

Crusty Frederick Man 64

Gardenwhimsey that’s democrat talk for if we don’t have to hide it we won’t, but if we have to hide we will. They just never finish saying what they are thinking at the time.

jerseygrl42

agree, that was a heck of a bad way to start off his term...

KellyAlzan

Yep

Crusty Frederick Man 64

There you go ! We will do everything to work with the partners, how about working with the citizens on this project you know the ones paying taxes. Oh, wait a minute if our tax money is being used I guess we are considered partners. Must be a play on words. My bad.

KellyAlzan

But “not a penny of tax payer money is being used”


(Said with sarcasm)

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, insights and experiences, not personal attacks. Ad hominen criticisms are not allowed. Focus on ideas instead.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
No trolls. Off-topic comments and comments that bait others are not allowed.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
Say it once. No repeat or repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.