Harford Board of Estimates approves sale of Bel Air building

The sale of a surplus government-owned building in downtown Bel Air was approved Thursday by the Harford County Board of Estimates.

The sale of 33 Courtland St., which is on the courthouse square, was discussed by the board during a closed session Thursday and then unanimously approved in open session.

In September, the Harford County Council unanimously voted for Resolution 21-13, to declare the property surplus and to authorize its sale to Velez LLC for $217,000.

Velez LLC also owns the adjoining building, 31 Courtland, which it bought from the county at auction in 2009 and uses for the headquarters of a nonprofit called LASOS Inc.

Melynda Velez, of Bel Air, is the founder LASOS Inc., which stands for Linking All So Others Succeed and which provides adult literacy classes in civics, financial literacy, technology and citizenship, as well as at-risk youth mentoring and family literacy programs, for non-English-speaking residents.

The 31 and 33 Courtland buildings are at the corner of Courtland and Bond, across Courtland from the circuit courthouse. The county has also been trying to sell 29 Courtland, a 19th century, two-story brick building that was the home of The Aegis from 1906 to 1962. The building was part of the same auction at which Velez bought 31 Courtland, but 29 didn't sell.

Public bodies can hold closed sessions for 14 different reasons under the Maryland Open Meetings Act, including to "consider the acquisition of real property for a public purpose and matters directly related thereto," or "discuss a matter directly related to a negotiating strategy or the contents of a bid or proposal, if public discussion or disclosure would adversely impact the ability of the public body to participate in the competitive bidding or proposal process."

Members of public bodies typically do not release the details of items discussed during closed sessions, but Sherrie Johnson, spokeswoman for the Harford County government, noted the matter discussed Thursday had already been discussed publicly.

Stream restoration

Board of Estimates members also unanimously approved a $375,692.59 contract with Ecotone Inc. of Jarrettsville to restore 1,200 linear feet of Foster Branch in Joppa.

The stream is a tributary of the Gunpowder River, Michael Rist, civil engineer with the county's Department of Public Works, said.

He presented to the board Thursday his department's recommendation that the contract be awarded to Ecotone.

"Right now the stream is very eroded and there's a lot of sediment that's being washed downstream," he said.

Rist said the county had received a grant of about $250,000 from the state's Department of Natural Resources, and $215,635 of that grant would be used to offset the construction costs for the Foster Branch restoration.

The county would cover the remainder of the construction contract.

The project would affect a section of the stream that is downstream from Copenhaver Park between Trimble Road and Joppa Farm Road.

Rist said workers would raise the stream bed and cut back the banks to ensure "larger flows" of water flow into the surrounding floodplain.

He said that method would slow down "the velocity of the flow and allow the nutrients and sediments to settle out."

Workers will also replace portions of the stone "riprap" along the banks and place a variety of plantings along the bank and floodplain, repair nearby county storm drains and construct a gravel pedestrian path.

Riffle pools will also be built in the stream to accommodate fish that travel the waterway, and "slow down erosive velocities of the waters," Rist explained.

He said the work would begin in about a month, as soon as the contracts are signed, and must be completed by March 1, 2014.

Rist said the stream must be closed to construction work at that time, which is required by the waterways construction permit issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Army Corps of Engineers, to allow fish to travel through to spawn.

Lease agreement

Board members voted 6-0 in favor of a lease agreement between the county and Bryan Klapproth, a county employee.

Member Jay Van Deusen, who is a citizen appointee of the County Council, abstained from voting.

The agreement allows Klapproth to lease a residence at 2704 Conowingo Road outside Bel Air for one year at $3,696 a year.

The lease agreement comes with a one-year option to renew.

Arden McClune, director of parks and recreation, told board members that Klapproth, who is an employee of the Department of Public Works, would lease the residence for a reduced rate, in exchange for serving as a caretaker and mowing the grass at the Scarboro Hills disc golf course in Street and property adjacent to Red Pump Elementary School.

Van Deusen said after the meeting that he abstained because he had a relationship with a former board member of a local group that could lease the same property at a later date.

McClune said later that the Conowingo Road property could be part of a potential land swap among Harford Friends School, the Graham Charitable Trust and the county, which would allow the county to acquire land along Route 24 in Emmorton to establish a cultural arts center and a passive park. The swap agreement has been stalled for over a year.

Pickup truck replacement

The board members voted unanimously to purchase six Ford F350 pickup trucks from Apple Ford Lincoln of Columbia for $179,362.

The trucks would replace six trucks used by the county's Division of Water and Sewer.

"These six trucks have reached the end of their useful life expectancy," Fleet Manager Warren Patrick told the board.

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