Harford County will purchase University Center land for $1

Harford County will be purchasing the nearly 10 acres occupied by the University Center of Northeastern Maryland near Aberdeen, as well as leasing the adjacent parking area, but it won't exactly be breaking the bank to do so.

The members of the county's Board of Estimates voted 5-0 Thursday to spend $1 to purchase the 9.96-acre parcel at 1201 Technology Drive from the state.

They also unanimously voted to spend $1 more for a 30-year lease of the Aberdeen Park and Ride Lot, a 1.56-acre parking area also owned by the state at the intersection of Route 22 and Technology Drive.

Board members Warren Hamilton and Jay Van Deusen, who are citizen appointees of the County Council and the county executive, respectively, were absent Thursday.

"I worry about the price," joked County Councilman Jim McMahan, who was sitting in for Council President Billy Boniface. "Has it been appraised?"

The University Center property and the park and ride lot are owned by the state through the Maryland Transportation Authority, or MdTA.

The University Center, which was previously called the HEAT (Higher Education and Applied Technology) Center until it was rechristened in October 2013, has been on the Technology Drive land since 1995.

It is designed to be a center for students living in Harford County and the rest of northeastern Maryland to take courses offered by six Maryland colleges and universities, including the University of Maryland, Towson University, Morgan State University and Johns Hopkins University.

It is operated by Harford Community College.

Mary Morris, an independent contractor for the Harford County Office of Economic Development, said the purchase of the land will give the county "the opportunity, if needed, to expand the HEAT Center."

During the discussion of the lease agreement, McMahan and Debbie Henderson, the county's procurement director, asked who would be responsible for lot maintenance and security.

"I just don't want it to become a haven for people to break into cars because it isn't under surveillance from the State Police anymore," McMahan said.

Henderson noted the lot is "in bad shape."

Robert McCord, the county attorney, said the county would take over maintenance and security.

"We're going to work out a memorandum of understanding on those items with the [community] college going forward," Economic Development Director Jim Richardson told board members.

Richardson said after the meeting the purchase and lease agreements must be approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works.

He also said the lot will remain open for park-and-ride drivers, and the county has an agreement with the MdTA to put up signs to indicate parking slots for commuters.

Stormwater maintenance

Board members voted 5-0 to approve a one-year, $800,000 contract with three firms – Angler Environmental of Warrenton, Va., Stormwater Maintenance LLC of Hunt Valley and Apex Companies LLC of Odenton – for maintenance of stormwater facilities and stabilizing ditches and streams.

Mike Rist of the Department of Public Works told the board the contractors would be working on stormwater facilities owned by the county and homeowners associations – the county must be reimbursed for any maintenance to the HOA-owned stormwater facilities.

McMahan queried Rist about how HOAs can ask the county to preform the "remediation" on their subdivisions' stormwater infrastructure "in certain circumstances."

Rist noted the county will preform the maintenance when some HOAs "just refuse to do it, and it gets to the point where we'll actually go in there and do the work."

The homeowners are charged for the maintenance on their tax bills, he explained.

Parks and rec maintenance

The board approved a $460,000 contract, split between Mid-Atlantic Turf Inc. of Hebron and Bartenfelder Landscape Service Inc. to preform maintenance on county playing fields and baseball diamonds,

Paul Magness of the Department of Parks and Recreation explained that having two contractors would allow county officials to have one take care of a project if the other did not have the time, and the county could ask both to submit proposals on a project.

Snow removal

The board approved a change order authorizing a $15,000 increase in what it is paying contractor Bartenfelder Landscape Service Inc. of Forest Hill to remove snow and ice from county lots and roads.

The price of the original contract, approved in 2012, was for $79,949. Tim Myers of the Department of Public Works noted the greater-than-anticipated amount of snow and ice over the winter.

Closed session

The board went into closed session to discuss the acquisition of property related to a bridge replacement project, according to a motion by Henderson. The board approved the measure in open session.

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