Brown's BRAC message to local officials: Think regionally

The Baltimore Sun

To prepare for the thousands of jobs coming to Maryland from a national military base realignment, local governments must be prepared to give up their top priorities for roads, schools and other infrastructure improvements in favor of projects that are most important to the region, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown said yesterday.

Addressing a meeting of local leaders who are preparing for the influx that will result from the national Base Realignment and Closure process, known as BRAC, Brown said county and municipal governments will need to review each other's plans and agree on common priorities.

"The key to success is a regional approach in BRAC," said Brown, who is developing BRAC plans for Gov. Martin O'Malley. "If any one county tries to go out and win the day, it's probably not going to work."

Maryland officials expect the state to gain 60,000 jobs and 28,000 households directly or indirectly from the expansion of military installations in the state.

A previous BRAC process brought a smaller influx to Southern Maryland counties, and they managed the growth by taking a regional approach, Brown said.

"You have to be able to say, 'I am willing to subordinate my No. 1 priority for the No. 1 priority of a neighboring county because we believe together the No. 1 priority in the neighboring county is the most important on a regional basis,'" Brown said.

Local governments don't usually behave that way when they're trying to get state money for school construction, roads and other projects. For example, when school construction money is divided up, county leaders compete annually to get as large a share of the money as possible.

Local leaders at yesterday's meeting said BRAC planning has been regionally focused from the start.

Baltimore, Harford and Cecil counties joined last year to form the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor, an effort to jointly manage the growth and economic development opportunities related to expansions at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Meade. Baltimore later joined the group.

"There has been real collaboration right from the start," said William P. Jones, the Baltimore County BRAC coordinator.

Aberdeen Mayor S. Fred Simmons said his town is likely to feel the direct impact from BRAC more than any jurisdiction in the state, but even so, he said, he understands the need to think regionally about infrastructure improvements.

"The epicenter, the most significant changes, are going to happen from the gates on outward," Simmons said. "But in order to play in this game, everybody's got to think regionally.

Brown said he also wants local leaders to review state practices, such as environmental permitting procedures, to make sure they can be coordinated with BRAC development efforts.

A committee of local leaders is scheduled to begin reviewing BRAC plans from each county this month and to provide recommendations by Oct. 4. A statewide BRAC plan is to be completed by the beginning of December.

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