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University System of Maryland chancellor could get $125,000 kitchen

The Hidden Waters estate that is used by the Chancellor of the University of Maryland.
The Hidden Waters estate that is used by the Chancellor of the University of Maryland.(Barbara Haddock Taylor)

A foundation associated with the University System of Maryland is requesting bids from contractors for a $125,000 kitchen renovation in the Baltimore County mansion it provides for its chief executive.

In December the executive committee of The University System of Maryland Foundation discussed allocating the money for the new kitchen — and another $80,000 for maintenance — at Hidden Waters, the sprawling estate on Old Court Road.

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The three-story mansion set on 12.5 acres, located 41 miles from the system's flagship campus at College Park, is occupied by Chancellor Robert B. Caret, who took over the position last year from William E. Kirwan. The kitchen is used to cater university events.

Minutes of the committee's meeting show that the panel agreed it would pay for the new kitchen and other work with money taken from the France Merrick Initiatives Fund, which is used to support foundation projects. The committee also discussed a security gate and instructed the foundation's staff to determine the cost. A final decision on both projects hasn't been made.

The 12,606-square-foot mansion was built in 1936 by Baltimore lawyer and banker Jacob France. In 1988, after the France family donated Hidden Waters to the university system, the Board of Regents decided to make the mansion the official residence of the chancellor. The foundation owns the property.

Caret, a former Towson University president, was wooed to the university system post from the University of Massachusetts with an offer of more than $600,000 in salary, guaranteed raises, a car and driver and the right to occupy Hidden Waters, valued at $1.3 million.

State Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat, said the estimated $125,000 project is a rather expensive kitchen. Conway, who chairs the Senate committee that oversees the system, said she would likely have questions about the project when university officials come before her panel.

A spokeswoman for the university system said Caret did not request the spending on the kitchen or the gate. Spokeswoman Anne Moultrie described the condition of the kitchen as 30 years old and very dated.

The foundation, she said, decided "there are a few issues" concerning security but declined to elaborate.

Moultrie said the foundation launched a formal assessment of Hidden Waters' condition last year. The kitchen was among the issues identified, she said. No taxpayer money is involved in the projects, she said.

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The $125,000 figure, she said, is "for discussion purposes only."

The foundation is a nonprofit affiliate of the university system with a mission to "advocate and support the advancement of public higher education," Moultrie said.

—Michael Dresser

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