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Harford County to lease more office space in Havre de Grace shopping center

Harford County is leasing more space in Swan Creek Village Center in Havre de Grace, this time for two programs of the county Health Department. The center is already home to the Office of Economic Development and related activities. Annual rents will total more than $400,000 once the latest leases are approved by the Board of Estimates.
Harford County is leasing more space in Swan Creek Village Center in Havre de Grace, this time for two programs of the county Health Department. The center is already home to the Office of Economic Development and related activities. Annual rents will total more than $400,000 once the latest leases are approved by the Board of Estimates. (AEGIS FILE PHOTO / Baltimore Sun)

Two divisions of the Harford County Health Department are expected to move to a shopping center on Route 40 in Havre de Grace, joining the Office of Economic Development, which has also been renting space there since the spring.

The move will boost the total rent to more than $400,000 annually that the county pays in the center, which is owned by two political supporters of Harford County Executive Barry Glassman. The county also could spend up to more than $275,000 on improvements to the areas the Health Department divisions will occupy.

The latest health department leases will bring to almost $1.5 million the amount the county is spending annually to lease space for health department activities at multiple locations.

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The county plans to lease an additional 8,000 square feet in the Swan Creek Village Center, at $147,075 annually, to house the health department's Division of WIC (Women, Infants & Children) and Division of Care Coordination, according to county procurement documents.

Combined with the Office of Economic Development and related agencies, which are paying rent of $286,984 annually on 12,645 square feet, according to previous information supplied to The Aegis by the county, the health department units would bring the county's annual rent in Swan Creek Village Center to $434,000, plus taxes, utilities, common area maintenance and insurance.

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The leases for the two Health Department units, which work out to approximately $18.38 a square foot, were approved unanimously Tuesday by the county Board of Estimates.

The agreement includes a rent of $89,725 annually for the Division of Care Coordination, as well as up to $121,250 for build-out, and rent of $57,350 for the Division of WIC and up to $155,000 for build-out.

When the economic development office moved to the center from the county administrative building in Bel Air earlier this year, build-out expenses were approved up to $260,000, according to earlier procurement documents.

The two Health Department offices were forced out of the Aberdeen Community Services building, at Route 40 and Franklin Street, last year when a plumbing problem flooded part of the building. They were moved to other locations in the county where the Health Department has leased space for several years, but that arrangement provided to be unsatisfactory, according to a spokesperson.

"Subsequent to the closure of the Community Services Building in Aberdeen, the relocation of staff to any and all available work space in other existing HCHD locations (including virtually anywhere we could place a chair a desk and a laptop), has been less than desirable," Bill Wiseman, the department spokesperson, said via email Monday.

"We are very pleased the county has identified space to adequately accommodate these two units of the Health Departments, their respective staffs and the clients to whom they provide services," said Wiseman, who called the proposed Havre de Grace location an "excellent fit in terms of the purpose and mission of these two units."

"Likewise, there are strategic advantages of co-locating these two units with respect to their interactions with one another, their proximity to other health care resources in that area as well as to public transportation," he said.

During Tuesday's estimates board meeting, board member County Council President Richard Slutzky asked if the space at Swan Creek could accommodate the facilities and programs that had been at the Aberdeen Community Services building.

Erin Schafer, the county chief of facilities and operations, replied the new space will be adequate.

Slutzky also asked if the state would help defray any moving costs, since the Health Department is legally considered a state agency.

Schafer said the state would cover costs for functions such as janitorial work, information technology, moving and furniture.

"The county does have a legal requirement to provide adequate space for the local health department," she added.

In selecting Swan Creek for the WIC and care coordination programs, the county administration sent out a traditional request-for-proposals to potential landlords, spokesperson Cindy Mumby said.

Swan Creek Center's owner is Rock Glen Commercial LLC, whose principals, Robert Hockaday and Dr. Richard Streett Jr., were strong supporters of Glassman's successful bid to become county executive last year. Hockaday's and Glassman's ties go back to their days at Washington College in the 1970s. Streett, in addition to developing commercial and residential properties in the county, is a veterinarian and served on Glassman's transition team.

Mumby said the ownership of the shopping center had no influence on the decision to lease more space there.

"We followed the appropriate bidding process and put the RFP process and worked with those [bidders]," she said.

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Mumby said it makes sense for the Health Department's divisions, especially WIC, to be in the Route 40 corridor.

"The Health Department wanted space that was easily accessible by the public," she said. "They wanted to be in the Havre de Grace [or] Aberdeen area and [Rock Glen's] was the only bid that we got back on the WIC offices, and the Care Coordination were going to require some build-out."

According to figures Mumby provided at the request of The Aegis, the county leases 54,000 square feet for other health department activities at two locations in Bel Air and two in Edgewood.

The county leases 26,878 square feet at 120 Hays St. in Bel Air for $703,092 annually from Lambdin Development Company; 3,440 square feet at 1 N. Main St. in Bel Air for $61,512 annually from 1 North Main Street; 21,584 square feet at 1321 Woodbridge Court in Edgewood for $534,371 annually from Hanson W LLC; and 2,240 square feet at 2204 Hanson Road in Edgewood from Edgewood Plaza Associates LLC.

Those leases date to the previous administration but have continued under Glassman because a plan to build a new health department building in Joppa, next to the Sheriff's Office Southern Precinct Station, didn't move forward at the end of former executive David Craig's administration. One of those who pushed to delay borrowing for the project was the previous council president, Billy Boniface, who has since become Glassman's director of administration.

Soon after Glassman took office last December, he put an indefinite hold on major capital projects, including the health department building, saying the county needed to pay back some of the money it had previously borrowed before taking another large block of new debt.

Aegis staff member David Anderson contributed to this story.

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