Frederick County delegation to request $7.5M in state funds for hotel, conference center

Frederick County delegation to request $7.5M in state funds for hotel, conference center

By Bethany Rodgers [email protected] | Posted: Saturday, January 31, 2015 2:00 am

ANNAPOLIS — State lawmakers from Frederick County are throwing their weight behind a $7.5 million funding request for the downtown hotel and conference center project.

Although the project has represented a top priority for Frederick city officials, the current budget proposal by Gov. Larry Hogan doesn’t contain any state funding for it. However, Frederick County representatives on Friday said they maintained hope of securing state dollars and resolved to send the governor a letter appealing for his support.

Even state Sen. Michael Hough agreed to get behind the request, despite his past reservations about directing public funds toward the project.

“Obviously, I’ve been the skunk at the garden party on this project for the past couple of years,” he said.

However, Hough, R-District 4, said he could support appeals for state aid for public aspects of the project. Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said these public improvements could include parking space, road upgrades and utility infrastructure.

The city’s plan is to fund one-third of the hotel and conference center project with the state government funding, grants and local tax revenue generated by the project itself.

The city initially asked the state for $15 million across two years for the project. However, the county’s legislative delegation decided to focus on getting $7.5 million in this fiscal year. They can always return next year and push for the remaining funds, they said.

Griffin and other project supporters came to Annapolis on Friday to make an in-person petition to the county’s legislative delegation.

Kara Norman, executive director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, pointed out that the 207-room hotel with 24,000 square feet of meeting space is anticipated to create an estimated 280 total jobs and $25.8 million in annual spending.

In response to questions about the size of the proposed facility, Griffin said he is confident that project planners are thinking on the proper scale.

“This is the right-sized facility for Frederick,” Griffin said. “It’s not an enormous facility.”

Griffin said moving the project forward in the absence of state funding would require additional negotiations with the project partners.

However, he was optimistic that the state would provide support for the facilities, especially since the county’s senators and delegates are all lending their help.

“We are very pleased to have gotten a unanimous vote of support from our delegation,” Griffin said.

Delegation tables charter school bill

Also at Friday’s meeting, members of the Frederick County delegation decided not to move forward with a bill that could grant more autonomy to charter schools in Frederick County.

Delegate Bill Folden, R-District 3B, attempted to rally his colleagues in support for the bill but was unable to win a majority of the delegation to his side.

Instead, the delegation indicated it wanted the County Council to weigh in on the proposal.

Among other things, the bill proposed by Tom Neumark, president of Frederick Classical Charter School, would allow the County Council to authorize new charter schools. The Frederick County Board of Education is the only local body that now has this authorization ability, Neumark said.

Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4, the delegation chairwoman, said members of Hogan’s administration had asked her to hold off on the local charter bill because the governor is planning to advance his own charter school agenda.