800 Oak Street

The large building and property at 800 Oak St. in Frederick is bordered on the east by the southbound lanes of U.S. Route 15. 

Those opposed to Frederick County government’s bid for a $20 million property claim the county is rushing its acquisition and neglecting to consult the public.

County officials, however, said Tuesday they notified the public as soon as they could about plans to purchase the 26-acre site at 800 Oak St. off U.S. Route 15. Further, county leaders said, their chance to obtain the property, which includes a 209,000-square-foot facility currently being used for COVID-19 vaccination clinics, will pass if they hesitate.

If the county doesn’t finalize its offer by Oct. 15, the Miami-based private equity firm selling the property will move on to another bidder, the county’s chief administrative officer, Rick Harcum, said.

“Frederick County government can be so agile to move quickly on this opportunity,” Harcum said during a council meeting Tuesday. “If we delay, the opportunity will be lost just as quickly.”

The county, he added, hasn’t been sitting on information. Officials had to wait for the conclusion of a roughly three-month due diligence process in which engineering and environmental assessments are completed. In property acquisitions, the process normally involves just the buyer and the seller, Harcum said, and it isn’t a public process.

For the county to finalize the purchase, the County Council will need to vote at its Oct. 12 meeting to approve the necessary funding. After hearing public comment Tuesday, in which two constituents questioned why members of the public weren’t involved sooner, the council had the option to vote but chose to delay the decision.

The period for comment normally ends when the council concludes its meetings, though the public will be able to submit written testimony about the proposal until 5 p.m. Friday.

The council’s decision comes a day after four of five Frederick city aldermen emailed a letter to county officials asking the council to delay its vote. The letter surprised and confused county officials, who said they hadn’t previously heard opposition to the proposal from city officials.

The aldermen also asked for a joint city and county public meeting to discuss the future of the property, but as of Tuesday night, the council had no plans to meet with the aldermen who signed the letter before next Tuesday, Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) said.

City board signees included President Pro Tem Kelly Russell (D) and aldermen Derek Shackelford (D), Donna Kuzemchak (D) and Ben MacShane (D). Also lending her name to the letter was Katie Nash (D), the lead vote-getter in the city’s primary election for the Board of Aldermen.

“This proposed purchase took us all by surprise as the property had been listed for sale for about 12-18 months and this was the first time we had understood the county was interested in acquiring such a large tract of land within the city of Frederick,” the signees said in a copy of the letter obtained by the News-Post.

Mayor Michael O’Connor (D), who serves as the city’s executive officer to the legislative Board of Aldermen, also expressed support for the position the aldermen took in their letter. The mayor said he may have signed on if the board hadn’t been pressed for time to send it to the county.

The County Council first discussed the Oak Street proposal during its Sept. 28 meeting, one week after County Executive Jan Gardner (D) announced the county’s plans during a Sept. 21 press briefing.

Total costs, including preparing the roofing for solar panels, would bring the final price tag to $32 million. The county hopes to offset a chunk of the site’s $20 million property cost — which doesn’t include costs beyond acquiring the property — by consolidating operations and improving efficiency to bring its net cost to between $7 million and $8 million, Gardner said.

Purchasing the property would bring an influx of economic activity to businesses in the area adjacent to the property, including the Golden Mile, Gardner said. It would also allow county government the opportunity to relocate services that are running out of space, she added.

The facility could be used to centralize some government services by opening an operation center, Harcum said during the meeting. Doing so could expedite the construction of a library on the west side of the city and eliminate costs that would’ve arisen if a new building had to be constructed.

Capital projects dependent on the county purchasing land or erecting buildings would also move forward quicker and be less expensive by using the Oak Street facilities, according to county documents.

The 911 call center that facilitates calls from both residents in the city and other parts of the county is outgrowing its capacity, Harcum said. He added that relocating it to the Oak Street facility would avoid construction costs and benefit from the telephone infrastructure that remains from a previous company’s call center.

Councilman Phil Dacey (R) has been vocal in his opposition to the proposal, telling the News-Post on Monday that he felt the process was rushed. It also wasn’t clear to him that the county had been looking for real estate or had a need for the space, he said.

“We’re buying this thing on a whim, on a two-week’s notice,” Dacey said. “It has the potential to be a boondoggle.”

Correction: This story has been updated to correct Councilman Phil Dacey's political affiliation. He is a Republican.

Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan

(21) comments

gjthuro

another disgraceful move by Gardner who just loves to waste other peoples money; first discussed by the County council 9 DAYS ago and she is ready to sign with virtually NO input from the people whose money she is spending ;and while the Headline says $20 Million its already up to $32 million and surely thats not the end but then we are told that "consolidating " will bring the cost down to $8 Million...what a bunch of malarkey...then we are told there will be an influx of economic activity ( meaning more of our $$$ going south and the truth is if the next in line to buy the property would also create economic activity , the difference is it would NOT be taxpayer $$$, we also hear they the county folks are running out of space , maybe its time to consolidate rather than continued expansion and finally there is NO discussion on the INTEREST the taxpayers will pay on this $32 Million boondoggle...it appears based on the article that One Person, councilman Dacey is the only one who is trying to protect the taxpayer cash and that is a crying shame

public-redux

^^^ (pointing and laughing) ^^^

Plumbum

So it’s ok to build a hotel in historic frederick, but a problem for the county to buy a 1980’s building?

WalkTheTown

Actually, the building at 800 Oak Street was completed in 1965, with varying level of upgrades/remodels

gjthuro

If private money wants to build a hotel with THEIR $$$$ that is there business, but spending $32 MILLION of taxpayer cash is a wholesaled;e different game, maybe you need to re-read the article

rwaesche

If the politicians of yesteryear would have listened to then Sheriff Carl Harbaugh the county would have had all that office space, including an IT area perfect for the 911 center, 25-30 years ago. That was an expensive miss.

Plumbum

Now now Randy. Gabs get upset when us natives recall things from yesteryear. She will be demanding that you stop what you’re doing and substantiate your claim.

gabrielshorn2013

Grow up plumbum. I haven't even commented on the article here.I am sure rwaesche can support his claim. I actually heard about this previously. Too bad you continue to make unsubstantiated claims about the sheriff. Poor you.

public-redux

“Grow up plumbum.”

Demanding the impossible is pointless.

evansdavidhome

The quote from Dacey about "two weeks notice" reflects his lack of knowledge regarding the county's 3 months of due diligence involving engineering and environmental studies. Sure, the space will need some work. That's why they did engineering studies.

mbv1

Let the seller move on to another bidder. It’s been available far longer than 12-18 months and is worth half of what the county is paying. Has the county had the building appraised by an MAI.appraiser?

gjthuro

Amen to that

kfmd

Correction— Phil Dacey is a Republican—not Dem as stated in this article. Frankly, I don't care what he has to say, because if I remember correctly, as a City Alderman—he didn't show up to many board meetings.

FrederickFan

Seems like a good deal to me. City officials continue to disappoint wanting delay, delay with no real reason even expressed. Thank goodness we have intelligent, competent and decisive leadership in Frederick County.

gjthuro

so you think the $3 Billion incinerator was intelligent...scary

newspostreader

I hope they know what they are getting into. That building needs a complete and total remodel.

mbv1

👍🏼

public-redux

I suspect the 3 month due diligence process might have included a walk-through.

gjthuro

Actually its what they are getting the TAXPAYERS into...just another boondoggle from Jan...she is NOT trustworthy

niceund

It will always be The State Farm Building, no matter who owns it.

WalkTheTown

MDIPA/UnitedHealth was merely a curious interregnum.

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