Cost over­run de­lays State Street project

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers are mulling op­tions on how to fund a bud­get short­fall in the con­struc­tion of a fourbed­room home to be op­er­ated by Ch­ester­wye Cen­ter Inc.

Dur­ing the May 9 commission meet­ing, Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Direc­tor Mike Clark briefed the com­mis­sion­ers on how the short­fall oc­curred and po­ten­tial op­tions to keep the sin­gle-story home’s con­struc­tion mov­ing for­ward.

The ques­tion cur­rently is what mech­a­nisms can be used to fund the $100,000 short­fall. The prop­erty, which in the past few years has been a topic of hot de­bate through­out the county due to its us­age, is lo­cated at 325 State Street in Stevensville.

Prior to Ch­ester­wye Cen­ter re­ceiv­ing the lo­ca­tion, Haven Min­istries Inc. op­er­ated the fa­cil­ity for a tran­si­tional shel­ter. Com­mu­nity mem­bers spoke out against Haven Min­istries’ op­er­a­tion af­ter the house had been tem­porar­ily closed for ex­pan­sion for use as an emer­gency shel­ter, funded through two Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment Block Grant through the Mary­land Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban Devel­op­ment..

Though part of the grant had been used for ar­chi­tec­tural and de­sign work, which the state forced the county to pay back af­ter the fa­cil­ity’s use changed and grant stip­u­la­tions were not met, about $670,000 re­mained and was even­tu­ally ear­marked for de­mo­li­tion of the ex­ist­ing home and the con­struc­tion of a group home for in­di­vid­u­als with dis­abilites.

Ch­ester­wye is a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion lo­cated in Queen Anne’s County that serves in­di­vid­u­als with de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties. The main head­quar­ters is lo­cated at 110 Ch­ester­wye Lane in Gra­sonville. The or­ga­ni­za­tion op­er­ates nine homes for the in­di­vid­u­als it serves.

David Wood­ward, prin­ci­pal ar­chi­tect at Manns Wood­ward Stu­dios Inc., the com­pany hired to de­sign the home, walked the com­mis­sion­ers through the project scope and what had been go­ing on since the com­mis­sion­ers ap­proved the res­o­lu­tion sign­ing over the home in April 2016.

Wood­ward said con­struc­tion bids went out in early Novem­ber and re­sponses were re­ceived in De­cem­ber, but at “that time the project was over bud­get, the bids came in quite high.” Hav­ing re­worked some of the fea­tures in the de­sign, Wood­ward said a se­cond bid was put out with re­sponses re­ceived in March, though the out­come was the same: the project was over bud­get.

With ap­proval from the state, Ch­ester­wye spoke with the orig­i­nal bid­ders to have them send in value en­gi­neer­ing bids to get the project cost lower. Though not all the ideas were plau­si­ble, the project was still over­run, he said.

Clark said the county could fund the $100,000 in a num­ber of ways. The first op­tion the state sug­gested was to ap­ply for a Mary­land Agri­cul­tural Ed­u­ca­tion Ru­ral Devel­op­ment As­sis­tance Fund Grant through the Ru­ral Mary­land Coun­cil in the max­i­mum amount of $30,000. Clark warned, though, the grant would not be awarded un­til at least Au­gust.

Clark cau­tioned the longer the project takes, the more ex­pen­sive con­struc­tion costs will be­come. Clark’s depart­ment is still fil­ing pa­per­work to ap­ply for the grant, he said.

The se­cond op­tion the state sug­gested was tak­ing $100,000 from the county’s Crit­i­cal Work­force Re­volv­ing Loan pro­gram, which grants funds to res­i­dents in fields such as teach­ing, fire­fighter, po­lice of­fi­cer and emer­gency ser­vices. The pro­gram pro­vides no in­ter­est, no pay loans to in­di­vid­u­als un­til the prop­erty is sold and the money is then paid back to the county.

Though a vi­able op­tion, Clark said two of the loans sched­uled for Fis­cal Year 2018 would then not be avail­able.

The third op­tion, Clark said, was to use county spe­cial loans in­tended for in­di­vid­u­als with low in­come, who are el­derly or have dis­abil­i­ties that is in the Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Com­mu­nity Ser­vice’s cur­rent fis­cal bud­get. Clark said the $100,000 had not been used as fed­eral grants and state funds were found through­out the year for in­di­vid­u­als.

The loans are used for home re­pairs, Clark said.

“It’s meant for folks that are low in­come, which rep­re­sents Ch­ester­wye and it also is meant for folks who ... have dis­abil­i­ties can fall into that cat­e­gory,” he said. “So, for me that’s a per­fect fit and it’s right there to be used, and luck­ily we haven’t used it.”

Com­mis­sioner Mark An­der­son said he agreed with Clark’s funding source rec­om­men­da­tion. “I want to get this done and I want to get it done soon,” he said.

Com­mis­sioner Jim Mo­ran, who ques­tioned why Ch­ester­wye couldn’t fund the $100,000 as it re­ceived more than $500,000 for free for the fa­cil­ity, put an­other funding op­tion on the ta­ble.

“If we want to go this route and want to use $100,000 out of an­other ac­count, I think that that money should be re­plen­ished,” Mo­ran said.

He said rather than pro­vid­ing Ch­ester­wye an­nual funds, the com­mis­sion­ers could fund the $100,000 re­quest but with­hold the an­nual amounts for a set pe­riod of time.

Since the dis­cus­sion, Ch­ester­wye Foun­da­tion has pledged to fund $50,000, Clark and Mo­ran said on Mon­day.

“I think this is good for Ch­ester­wye and it’s good for the county, but I have a prob­lem with spend­ing even more money for some­thing that was never in­tended for this,” Mo­ran said. “And I mean that re­spect­fully, but I mean that’s an op­tion I want to put out on the ta­ble.”

The com­mis­sion­ers tabled the item as Com­mis­sioner Robert Buckey was not at the meet­ing and the vote would have yielded a tie. The item could be voted on dur­ing the commission’s next meet­ing on Tues­day, May 23, in the Lib­erty Build­ing in Cen­tre­ville be­gin­ning at 5:30 p.m.

Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter: @mike_k­ibay­times.

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