ANNAPOLIS — Frederick County and its municipalities stand to benefit from Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2020 budget, which was introduced to the General Assembly on Friday. One closely watched project, however, remains unfunded.
Hogan’s proposed $46.6 billion budget invests in education and transportation, while putting aside 6.5 percent of state revenue in a Rainy Day Fund. Highlights of the budget include a 10 percent increase in local transportation aid driven by highway user revenue formulas, a $6.9 billion statewide investment in education and multiple capital investments in roads around Frederick County.
One item that is not funded, however, is the proposed hotel and conference center in downtown Frederick.
Delegate Carol Krimm (D-District 3A), the county delegation’s chairwoman, said that she was disappointed by the lack of money for the hotel and conference center in the governor’s budget, but that she would continue to support the project and work to secure funding for it.
City of Frederick officials shared a similar sentiment, after initially being optimistic about receiving funding this year.
“Our plan is to continue to work with the delegation to do what we can do to secure the funds we need to get the project completed,” Mayor Michael O’Connor said on Friday. “Five million dollars has already been allocated by the General Assembly, and we need to work through the process to get that money through the Board of Public Works to get that approved.”
Pete Plamondon, co-president of Plamondon Hospitality Partners, which plans to develop the site, did not return a call for comment.
Proponents of the downtown hotel have been meeting with members of the Frederick County delegation to discuss the project, but they have not yet come in front of the entire delegation to request their support, Sen. Michael Hough said on Friday.
Hough (R-District 4) has historically not supported state funding for the hotel and conference center, which is slated for development at 200-212 E. Patrick St. in downtown Frederick. He would support giving the project a fair hearing in front of the delegation, though he remained concerned of past efforts to circumvent the delegation since its members voted the project down in their last term.
The scope of how public funds would be used for the project has changed over time. A plan released by Plamondon Hospitality Partners in the spring of 2017 ensured that money from the city, Frederick County and the state would not fund construction of the hotel or conference center. The public money will instead focus on the construction of public infrastructure such as parking, road, utility, streetscape and creek area improvements, The News-Post reported.
Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D-District 3A) said she prefers to call the hotel the Public Infrastructure Project, which better reflects the current proposal to use state funds for parking.
“I believe that this change of funding warrants a new conversation, particularly since there are three new members of the delegation,” Lewis Young said by email Friday.
Last year, the capital budget was amended at the last minute to include $5 million for land acquisition and work on the site, The News-Post reported. Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said at the time that the project was possible with only the $5 million, but the preferred design included $11 million more for additional public parking. Without the $11 million, the extra parking was up in the air.
If more money were to be added for the project, Hough said he would prefer for it to be decided by the delegation, rather than an amendment without the delegation’s support in the chambers.
“It continues this standoff, unless they get delegation support,” Hough said.
A number of capital grant projects in Frederick County, however, were proposed to be funded in the governor’s budget.
A total of $9.6 million was allocated to the Maryland Independent College and University Association to be divided between four projects, including two in Frederick County. Hood College and Mount St. Mary’s University are each slated to receive $2.4 million to help cover the cost of renovating buildings on their campuses.
The city of Brunswick may also receive aid from the state to complete three projects. The largest is a $483,000 grant for a new emergency operations center as well as two, $100,000 grants to repair a stormwater tunnel and to built a new public works building.
The city of Brunswick sustained substantial damage to its public works building during the floods last May. The first floor flooded, which caused the city to discard many pieces of equipment and remediate the rest for mold.
One of the grants will help the city cover the cost of a new building, so that it does not need to store equipment in the building that flooded, said City Manager David Dunn. The other grant will help repair a stormwater tunnel — known as the Martins Creek tunnel — which runs under City Hall and Square Corner Park. Each project is expected to cost $200,000.
“We asked for more on each project but we are elated with what the Governor has budgeted,” Dunn said by email.
The largest of the projects, the emergency operations center — which will also be shared by the police department and department of public works — is expected to cost $500,000. Dunn and Mayor Jeff Snoots plan to visit the Frederick County delegation in Annapolis next week to discuss an additional $100,000 bond to help fund the project.
“It’s not a wealthy jurisdiction. It has a downtown with a lot of [infrastructure] needs,” said Hough, who supported the inclusion of the Brunswick projects in the governor’s budget.
The governor also supported allocating $250,000 for stage renovations to New Spire Arts. The Frederick County ROOT Business and Technology Cultivation Center was also pegged to receive $250,000.
The state budget also proposes investing heavily in a new YMCA for southern Frederick County, proposing to contribute $400,000 to the building.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford also announced last week that the state would commit half a million dollars to the establishment of a detox facility in Frederick County. The $500,000 promise was listed in Hogan’s capital budget.
“Overall, we did very well as a county in that budget,” Hough said.
Staff writer Mallory Panuska contributed to this report.