Getting funding for Harford Community College's Towson University building is one of the top priorities for Harford County's delegates and senators when they head back for the 2012 Maryland General Assembly session, which begins Wednesday.
Harford's delegation is working "very hard" on resolving issues that have prevented construction of the project, Del. Rick Impallaria, a Republican representing western Harford, said.
"Everything is done except for a signature to release the money," he noted.
Impallaria, who was the Harford delegation chair in 2011, said they will speak with Gov. Martin O'Malley and his office "and see what it's going to take to get this funding released so we can move forward."
The building is a partnership between the college and Towson University and would allow students to earn bachelor's degrees from the university on HCC's campus. Plans for the expansion were announced in early 2009.
"There's no technical reason why this isn't moving forward," Impallaria continued, saying that the delegation wants an answer why funding from the state hasn't been provided.
Sen. Barry Glassman, who represents northern Harford, said he funding isn't the lone issue holding up the Towson project.
"What I found over the years," Glassman said, "is that the various colleges and universities [in the state] are territorial" and grow concerned of what impact a new institution of higher learning can have on their programs.
"I think that's probably why they [the Maryland Higher Education Commission] are taking a close look at this," he added.
The first hurdle Harford will need to overcome in moving forward with the Towson building is to gain approval from MHEC, he continued, which could come any day. Glassman said he recently spoke with MHEC's interim secretary, Danette Gerald Howard, who told the senator that they should receive a response "around the first of the year."
The Towson building, planned for HCC's new west campus, is just one step in creating more opportunities for higher education in Harford and Cecil counties, Glassman said, one that would help address the needs of those who moved to the area as part of base realignment, or BRAC, at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The first thing Harford's representatives in the legislature will do when the get to the State House next week, however, is look at bills that could possibly "be damaging to Harford County," Impallaria said.
"You never know exactly what's going to happen with that until you get there," he noted.
Examples of legislation that could potential be "damaging" to the county, Impallaria said, are raising the gasoline tax — "there are lots of commuters in the county" — and bills that would affect farmers. These issues, he added, have to be looked at "on an individual basis."
Glassman shares those thoughts.
"Our main goal is to protect Harford County when it comes to PlanMaryland and the state's attempt to take our local planning authority away."
PlanMaryland is the state's plan for sustainable growth and development in the future. Instead of the counties mandating regulations for their particular area, it would be up to the state to tell them how they can develop.
Impallaria also noted that each delegate has different issues they will be "pushing for," and bills that directly affect the county he and the other delegates "will take an even stronger look at it."