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Annapolis City Council clears way for $10.5 million public works facility on Hudson Street, design work next step

Department of Public Works Director with plans for the proposed facility.
Department of Public Works Director with plans for the proposed facility.(courtesy of Mitchelle Stephenson)

The Annapolis City Council approved new language in the city’s capital budget and capital projects program to clear the way for the construction of a new public works building estimated to cost about $10.5 million.

The passage of O-40-19 Monday night solidifies language in upcoming budgets for the long-awaited public works building at 39 Hudson Street. The final vote was 5-2 with Alderman DaJuan Gay, D-Ward 6, and Alderwoman Elly Tierney, D-Ward 1, voted no. The public works building funding will be listed in the fiscal year 2020 capital budget and the Capital Improvement Program for fiscal years 2021 to 2025.

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This approval doesn’t mean a public works facility will appear in the near future, though it provides a payment path. Next is design work as the new building will unlikely look like the old facility. Mayor Gavin Buckley was joined by Aldermen Ross Arnett, D-Ward 8, Rob Savidge, D-Ward 7, Fred Paone, R-Ward 2, and Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles, D-Ward 3, in passing the bill.

The sentiment among those who cast yes votes was that a new public works facility was long-overdue and work needed to begin as soon as possible.

Paone was hesitant about the public works facility’s estimated cost because it is far more than was originally budgeted for the project several years ago but ultimately voted for the measure because a new public works facility is “so unbelievably overdue. Putting off a vote is not a good idea,” he said.

Tierney has criticized the acquisition of a 6.88-acre plot the city paid $2.2 million for in December after years of delays in finding a viable site for the facility, calling the move “bad behavior ... in not realizing the implication of the delays.”

The new facility was previously proposed to be built at a new site on Forest Drive as part of an ill-fated land swap between the city and a private developer.

“This is a conscience vote,” she said.

Gay also decried the hefty estimated price tag, drawing a comparison to how many public housing and affordable housing properties could be fixed with similar amounts of money.

Prior to Gay’s remarks, the first hour of Monday’s meeting was dominated by a dozen residents from Bay Ridge Gardens who called attention to a raft of issues they say they’ve dealt with the last several years at the affordable housing community, poor living conditions like mold, gas and water leaks and pest infestations, that plague many of the units, as well as what she described as mismanagement by Jonathan Rose Companies, which has overseen the property since October.

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City Council members assured the group they would take action this week, including possible inspections of the direst units and a possible subpoena of the property management company.

A staff report drafted by City Manager David Jarrell and his predecessor Teresa Sutherland indicates the public works project would cost an estimated $10.5 million, which includes the $2.2 million to acquire the land. That price tag is about $1.1 to $1.4 million more than the estimated cost to build the facility where the old public works facility once stood on Spa Road.

Jarrell cautioned that the sums in the report were estimates and subject to change. The design costs, in particular, could be reduced once that phase of work begins but that won’t occur until the council approved the new capital budget language.

“We need assurances from City Council,” he said. “Until we know we’re buying the site we aren’t going to spend money on design.”

A public hearing for a proposed plastic bag ban, O-9-20, introduced by Alderman Rob Savidge, D-Ward 7, revealed there will likely be a drawn-out debate on the subject moving forward. Two of the longest-tenured council members, Paone and Alderman Ross Arnett, D-Ward 8, recalled a previous attempt by the council to ban plastic bags more than a decade ago.

The previous legislation died because paper bags are almost as bad as plastic ones, Arnett said.

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Former Ward 7 Alderman Jared Littmann, a business owner, who left office in 2017, testified on the bill. He said he supports the bill generally but cautioned the city about imposing a 20-cent fee on each paper bag because it could hurt local businesses.

“For the city, it’s an experiment to do fees,” Littmann said. “But for businesses, it’s our livelihood that you’re playing with when you start adding fees.”

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