March 14, 2012

Department of General Services docked $500,000 until release of secret study on Housing Dept. move

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By Daniel Menefee
Dan@MarylandReporter.com

As part of its preliminary approval of the state budget, the Senate voted to withhold $500,000 in general funds from Department of General Services until it can document the costs of moving the Housing Department’s headquarters from a state-owned property in Crownsville to a proposed development at New Carrollton Metro station.

But later in the day Wednesday, the Senate did reject an amendment by Anne Arundel County Sen. Ed Reilly to block funds for any transfer of the agency.

The earlier amendment to the fiscal 2013 budget requires the Housing Department and the Department of General Services to submit timelines for construction, operating costs, and the financing plan, which must include state assistance and information on developer Carl Williams’s equity in the project.

The agency’s state-owned headquarters in Crownsville costs $1.7 million annually, less than half potential rent at New Carrollton of $3.6 million.

Lawmakers want a comparative analysis that reconciles keeping the current headquarters in Crownsville versus moving the agency to New Carrollton.

The Department of General Services is withholding a study that justified the move because of ongoing negotiations with Carl Williams, said General Services Assistant Secretary Michael Gaines on Feb. 9.

Legislative analyst Jaclyn Hartman was denied access to the study to crunch the Housing Department’s budget numbers for 2013.

The amendment requires the Housing Department and General Services to provide the information at least 45-days before the lease agreement for the project is reviewed by the Board of Public Works.

Del. Mary-Dulany James, chair of the House subcommittee on the agency’s budget, has asked for a ruling from Attorney General Doug Gansler on whether Gaines can legally withhold the feasibility study from legislators.