Why is it such a struggle to get state funds allocated to the proposed hotel and conference center in downtown Frederick, a project that is widely accepted as being vital to the economic health of our city? We are getting tired of repeating this.
Gov. Larry Hogan has sent his 2020 budget to the General Assembly, and it includes significant spending on projects of direct benefit to the Frederick community. But once again this year, the governor set aside no money for the downtown hotel.
Delegate Carol Krimm (D-District 3A), chair of the county’s legislative delegation, told News-Post reporter Samantha Hogan that she was disappointed by the governor’s failure to provide money but that she would continue to support the project and work to secure funding for it.
Frederick city officials vowed to continue working with the local delegation to get the money so that this vital city project can finally get completed. It has languished in limbo for years now, with the state nickel-and-diming us.
“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.” Mayor Michael O’Connor told our reporter.
Last year, the capital budget was amended late in the session to include $5 million for land acquisition and work on the hotel site. Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said then that the project was possible with 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, he said.
Plamondon Hospitality Partners, the city’s chosen developer, pledged in 2017 that any taxpayer funds provided by the city, Frederick County and the state would not go for construction of the actual building of the hotel or conference center. Instead, the public money will be used to pay for public infrastructure such as parking, road, utility, streetscape and creek area improvements.
Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D-District 3A) told our reporter that 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 wrote in an email.
The changed composition of the delegation may improve the prospects for the state to eventually kick in more money.
We continue to believe that primary roadblock to state funding is the opposition from Sen. Michael Hough (R-District 4), who says he supports the construction of the hotel, but does not want the state to help pay for it. The Republican governor has no incentive to override the Republican senator.
We also believe Hough is sadly misguided in his opposition to state aid. It is incumbent on the state to support local projects that have a beneficial impact on the state economy. Nothing can do more to help Frederick and the state than getting this hotel project done.
Our economy is doing well right now, thankfully, despite the partial shutdown of the federal government. But only a fool could believe that the decade-long expansion can last forever. At some point there will be a downturn. The time to make investments in our city is now, when we can still afford it.
Projects in the city are usually more expensive than those on undeveloped land in the county. Government support for infrastructure is the right thing to do.
Hough told our reporter that he would support giving the project a fair hearing in front of the delegation. He said proponents 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.
Hough should do more than listen. He should rethink his opposition and give his backing to the plans.