Com­mis­sion­ers move for­ward on Wal­dorf rec cen­ter

Look to spend more than $4M on project

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­

The Wal­dorf Ur­ban Re­de­vel­op­ment Cor­ri­dor along Old Wash­ing­ton Road is a pri­or­ity when it comes to ur­ban­iz­ing Wal­dorf and on Tues­day, the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers took an­other step in mak­ing it a re­al­ity.

The board ap­proved a $4.3 mil­lion budget increase for the pur­pose of the de­sign and de­vel­op­ment of a re­cre­ation cen­ter for all ages, in­clud­ing se­niors, in the “heart of Wal­dorf,” County Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said. The fi­nal vote on the fa­cil­ity was 3-1 with County Com­mis­sioner De­bra Davis (D) the lone vote of dis­sent and County Com­mis­sioner Bobby Rucci (D) ab­sent.

County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent Amanda Ste­wart (D) said the project had been dis­cussed pre­vi­ously and was some­thing she looked for­ward to bring­ing to the com­mu­nity.

“For the past two years this is some­thing we’ve been dis­cussing,” Ste­wart said. “Many of the county res­i­dents have asked for this. They’ve asked for an­other se­nior cen­ter that they can come to.”

Jenifer Ellin, the county’s chief of budget, said $3.8 mil­lion would go to the pur­chase of prop­erty and ren­o­va­tion of the build­ing. The county re­ceived an $800,000 com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment block grant that al­lowed them to increase fund­ing for the project along with some con­tin­gency fund­ing left over in bonds and $1.3 mil­lion in debt af­ford­abil­ity bonds.

Ste­wart said the fa­cil­ity would not be “tear­ing down trees” and cre­at­ing a new space for its pres­ence. In­stead, she said, the county will be find­ing a space in Wal­dorf to ren­o­vate and build into a re­cre­ation cen­ter for all ages.

“We’re re­vi­tal­iz­ing cer­tain ar­eas in our county. We’re ac­tu­ally show­ing the com­mu­nity how it can be done,” Ste­wart said.

Robin­son said the county is plan­ning on open­ing the fa­cil­ity “a little over a year from now,” should ev­ery­thing go as planned with the budget.

“This is a ma­jor big deal,” he said.

Peo­ple across the county had been clam­or­ing for a new fa­cil­ity, County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) said, and the county is fi­nally mov­ing for­ward in the process of bring­ing them one.

How­ever, County Com­mis­sioner De­bra Davis (D) said she could not sup­port the fa­cil­ity be­cause of the process of its ap­proval. The budget ap­proval item had not been pre­sented to the pub­lic, she said, and the com­mis­sion­ers would be ap­prov­ing mov­ing for­ward with tax­payer dol­lars to fund a fa­cil­ity that has not been dis­cussed with the pub­lic.

“We are mak­ing this pro­posal, it’s for a $4 mil­lion trans­fer. And this is the first time we even pub­licly be­gan to talk about it,” Davis said.

The com­mis­sion­ers had been in dis­cus­sions about a se­nior cen­ter with the Depart­ment of Com­mu­nity Ser­vices pre­vi­ously, but the cen­ter pro­posed on Tues­day en­com­passes all ages.

Mur­phy said se­niors, specif­i­cally, had been ask­ing for a place to so­cial­ize out­side of the Wal­dorf Jaycees.

“We felt it was cer­tainly worth, the very least we could do was give them a cen­ter to go so­cial­ize. I be­lieve that’s what that part of this is all about,” he said.

The pro­posal had been in the works for “some time,” Mur­phy said, and was some­thing the com­mis­sion­ers had dis­cussed pre­vi­ously. Davis re­quested that the com­mis­sion­ers, be­fore ap­prov­ing the budget item for fis­cal year 2018, hold a pub­lic hear­ing on the fa­cil­ity to let the pub­lic know the “ins and outs” of it.

“If its so great and so needed I want them to know what it’s go­ing to cost,” she said.

Mur­phy said the com­mis­sion­ers would be fine with do­ing that. The county com­mis­sion­ers start their fis­cal year 2018 budget process on April 25, Ellin said.

“That’s fair and fine,” Mur­phy said.

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