By Andy Rosen
The Board of Public Works on Wednesday signed off on a transfer of the former Rosewood Center in Baltimore County to Stevenson University and on a controversial short-term financing contract, as well as approving about $9 million for Ocean City projects.
A divided board also approved a $21.5 million contract with GTECH Corp., which will pay the company to install a system to oversee Maryland’s slot machine gambling program. Comptroller Peter Franchot opposed the contract, while Gov. Martin O’Malley and Treasurer Nancy Kopp voted for it.
The contract, if extended, could be worth close to $40 million. Franchot said he was concerned because the contract would be paid using money generated by slot machines. The state doesn’t have any revenue from the machines yet, because none are expected to be operating until later this year.
As covered earlier at MarylandReporter.com, one Ocean City award would pay for the state’s share of an $8.3 million beach restoration project in the resort town. Another would see the state use $4.8 borrowed money to help the Ocean City Convention Center expand. Local officials said the project was necessary to allow the facility to host multiple events at the same time.
The state spending panel faced debate in its approval of a routine state financing contract that allows Maryland to borrow money to pay ongoing expenses for state equipment.
The contract only lasts for 15 days, and the Board of Public Works regularly approves such deals. This one was for $4.5 million, and the state borrowed the money from SunTrust Equipment Financing and Leasing Corp.
But Grant Capital Management Inc., the company that worked on previous equipment financing contracts, objected. J.P. Grant, president and CEO of the company, said new bidding rules for the contracts made it hard for his company to qualify. He said he could have given the state a 3.1 percent interest rate, lower than the 3.7 percent rate Maryland is paying under the contract approved Wednesday.
“We can’t compete,” he said. “We want to be compliant. We’ve saved the state millions of dollars in the past year.”
Treasurer Kopp said she was sorry that Grant wasn’t clear on the rules, but the state needed to approve the contract in order to pay people for work that had already been completed.
“As far as I’m concerned, we have to follow the law,” she said. “We’ve done everything we can to reach out to all of the community in fashioning the bid.”
The BPW also approved a measure that would allow the state to negotiate the sale of the former Rosewood Center to Stevenson University, which has its Owings Mills campus near the property. The facility for the developmentally disabled was closed last year.
Comptroller Franchot said he was concerned that more outside bidders weren’t contacted before the state decided to sell to Stevenson.