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Council Decides to Borrow up to $14 million, Clearing Potential Spending of $21 million or More on New City Hall

At last night’s Council meeting, the City Council voted 7-1 to borrow up to $14 million to build the new City Hall.

The decision will now allow the City Hall project team to finish designing the new City Hall with the latest schematic design. Once completed, the new City Hall can potentially cost taxpayers $21 million or more.

In addition to (up to) 14 million dollars the City may borrow, the City will spend at least $5.5 million from its general budget fund. It will also be spending $1.4 million from the State and other grants. If the project needs more funding, it may spend from City’s general fund and other potential sources.

The City has also spent $1.6 million to buy two properties on Route 1 as part of the project. As part of the negotiation with the UMD, the City expects to recoup this acquisition cost. Additional credit may come from the value of the shared use of the land where the current City Hall stands.

If the City borrows $14 million for 30 years, it will be paying $758,000 per year as debt services cost (capital + interest) to pay off the loan.

The borrowing of a potential 14 million dollars will put City’s debt to expenditure ratio at 8.2. The City expects to borrow additional funds soon to support an estimated $4 million Duvall Field project. It is recommended to keep the debt to expenditure ratio at 10.

Several residents spoke (at the meeting) and sent their comments to the Mayor and Council before the vote. Almost all of them expressed their concerns about the high cost. Please see some of the email comments below. I much appreciate everyone’s input.

Out of my concerns about the high cost of the project and its potential negative effect on other potential resident-centric projects, I cast the lone vote against the proposal. I still hope the Council will spend cautiously as the City Hall project moves forward.

It is irresponsible to accept the unlimited costs of the new city hall.None of you would accept construction work with a contract that made you responsible for an unlimited increase in construction costs. You have done just that to the residents of our city.

Direct the city attorney to limit the expenditures of the city…or better yet, get out of this contract.

P.K.

I am writing you today regarding the possible new construction of a city hall for College Park. I am planning on coming to the meeting this Tuesday night since this is such an important topic. But just in case I can’t make it, I would like you and the Council to know my opinion of this project. The Town of College Park was an old quaint area that many enjoyed to eat, explore, and gather with friends. I agree that improvements eventually were needed but on a scale that fit the area. The large high rise buildings up and down Route 1 don’t fit into the.areas they occupy, .plus the development has stripped the overall college feel of the town. Why 8 to 10 story buildings were ever approved mystifies me. The town no longer has a branded look to it but a hap-hazard mismatched high rise building here and there along with single story buildings. Meanwhile nothing has been done to relieve the infrastructure on Route 1. To me there seems to be NO planning or cohesiveness that has gone into the total creation of building a college town.

Therefore, I am appealing to the Mayor and Council to halt the construction of another building that does not fit into the overall college feel and look of the Town of College Park. An urban designer needs to layout a unified approach to the entire College Park Route 1 area to make a more unified cohesive approach to development. This plan also need to include some type of relief for the congestion on Route 1. My family avoids driving on Route 1 in either direction and going into College Park altogether now. If your plan was to develop the area specifically for the University students you have succeeded with that plan.

Please save the exorbitant amount of money that building the town hall will cost and hold it until a plan can be created to unify the Route 1 area from the University to 495. As with any project, additional monies will be needed before the project is finalized. There are always issues that come up so 20.6 million is not the final cost.

Thank you for your time and permitting me to voice my opinion,

K.B.

I just wanted to let you know that I am concerned about the substantial increase in the proposed cost for the new city hall. It has always struck me as a very expensive undertaking with little benefit to the community, now it’s a proposed exorbitantly expensive undertaking with little community benefit. I do believe that the City employees should have better working conditions but don’t believe this is the appropriate way to reach that goal.

G.E.

The incredible leaps in the cost estimates for a new City Hall leave most residents with their mouths agape, their hands on their wallets, and a realtor on their speed-dial . There must be some way to back down the costs a big bit, actually a lot, from what appears to be a palatial cost that will be passed on to us, and on and on to our children’s grandchildren in higher property taxes from now until all the cows come back. (Of course, when the cows return, there will be scarcely anyone one left to pay the tab. Can anyone blame them!)We also know that initial, pre-building cost estimates are usually only partial payments on the usual ever-growing cost of a complete and final project. Which means millions more… well, you should be wise enough to get the drift.

The City (which means You and Staff) must find ways to lessen this costly burden. Currently, at least, the Mayor and Council are required to still reside in the City, but what sort of enticement will increased property tax rates mean for future residents. Doesn’t this have a chilling effect on the tax base upon which the City must depend? Don’t we already have a much smaller tax base to milk as the University expands and this project proceeds?

Look closer. Find solutions. This is an issue with a long history that appears to have a much longer and onerous future. There must be ways to cut costs and change the dynamic and ever-growing astronomical costs of a City Hall for such a relatively small populace.

C.P.

I am writing with regards to the vote on City Hall’s building.

I do believe that we need a new City Hall building, however I am still not comfortable with where it is located, but mostly the cost of the building. Especially with the rising cost now shown for the building, the cost of living increasing & the unknown future we have in general.

There are many factors that leave me very concerned. One is that I am concerned about how much the people in the community will have to deal with the expense. Many of those in College Park are just making ends meet and the taxes can affect their ability to live day to day. Our seniors & disabled live with very little income (SSI being only $771 a month & you may be lucky to get $100 a month in food stamps), that could cause them to be homeless or lose what they have. Many of the seniors may have paid their house off, so cheaper living in their home vs the average cost to rent a single room can be over a $1000 to $1500 a month. The fact is that section 8 has been close for many years, so those who are not on the list, can’t get on the list and those who are, the waiting is many years. Also, the vouchers for those with mental health or physical disabilities, to senior citizens is unavailable. Do you realize that there is a fight to get on the MIAD or ACIS list for just the mentally ill? That is why you see so much homelessness. So, I feel that we are not taking part in protecting our community of people who live here now.

Secondly, I am not seeing the UMD taking more steps for College Park as I feel they could. I know that there are programs run by the UMD & students participate, but I see more the students participating than the UMD. Also, it is a small group of students that do this, which I feel the UMD can be more of an active role here. Further, many of the active participation the UMD does financially, there is a tax write off, but this isn’t the fact for the people who live here. So, I want to see more active participation from UMD, especially where they promote what they do and show what they do. I want their voice.

Sadly, the UMD/UMMS has done some shady acts & it is more important that I know they are participating for bettering the community and not all about some underlying purpose that promotes for them and hinders the community. Even one person having ulterior motives can be conflict of interest in our city.

Again, I am not against City Hall having a new building but I have concerns in where it will be & the cost of it being placed so high on the residents.

D.C.

Good morning. I just wanted to go on record that I am against extra funding for the new city hall. I understand that the city can afford it but I am concerned about the high cost verses the benefits.

P.G.

I have lived in College Park since 1968 and have paid a lot of various taxes. I would appreciate tax money, or any grants you get go to the benefit of seniors or other residents who need some services from the city. A senior center would be good. Tax write offs to big businesses that cater to visitors to the university, are not something that seems necessary for a city. That is the business of the university. They keep trying to be #1. At whose detriment ?
I am concerned by the $7.5 increase in the projected cost of City Hall for College Park and the knowledge that this may not be the last increase in costs. I ask that the Council set a limit for what can be expended on this project and work to keep costs within that limit. Without a limit on what can be expended new ideas for enhancing the project may continue to increase the City’s cost and the debt that the City will be responsible for in years to come.The recent Diamondback article about City Hall stated that up to $5 million in costs could be shaved off total costs if adjustments were made to floor heights or specific features like an outdoor water installation, per Katie Hearn of Redgate, the City’s real estate advisor. I ask the Council to establish a final limit that can be spent on the project and then work within that number. When costs are below the limit, features like a water installation can be added but when necessary costs like labor and material increase then spending would be reduced in ways suggested by the real estate advisor to keep costs within the agreed upon range. In light of recent labor and material costs increases, I ask the Council to consider adoption of the cost saving measures outlined proposed by Redgate.

The distribution of costs between the City and UMD is not clear to me. I ask that the Council work out all details of the arrangement with UMD before proceeding further into this project. Who will be responsible to building maintenance, interior and exterior? How will costs be shared? To me it appears the City has a significant amount of leverage due to the amount of land the City owns and ownership of the parking garage. Recent costs projections show that UMD is footing construction costs for the retail portion of the property? Will tenant revenue be shared with the City? I would prefer to see the City invest in the retail portion of the property to establish a revenue source in the future.

Finally, if the construction is delayed because of actions by UMD, and the time City staff are housed at 8400 exceeds the agreed upon limit, the City should not be responsible for rent payments to UMD.

C.N.

Thanks for sharing the data about the costs of the city hall. I have the following thoughts:1. Are we sure that $21 million will be the final estimate that college park will end up paying out of the 47 million in total? Is there a chance the cost to us could increase by another 61% or is this budget locked in more or less.

2. On this topic, if the cost end up going over 47 million, who will pay more of those overage costs, College Park or UMD? I noticed we ended by paying 61% more for the higher costs in total (21 versus 13 million) while UMD is paying 13% more (27 versus 24 million). I am just concerned if costs keep increasing we will have to cover more and more of the bill.

3. If we end up having to pay 21 million, would we be able to make a new city hall in another location for a cheaper cost overall? While I also support the need to address the lack of space of our City employees in the current City Hall, I am not entirely convinced we need to locate city hall in downtown college park, given that I doubt the mean center of college park’s overall population (excluding UMD residents) lives where the new City Hall is being considered.

Thanks for hearing me out and the hard out you all are doing

D.S.

At tonight’s meeting, I hope you will move forward with the city hall development. While the project costs have increased, it is a badly needed project and one that will set the city up for years to come. If cost savings can be made in certain areas without impacting the overall function of the building and its ability to serve city staff and residents in the long term, those should be considered. But its time to move forward with this important project.

N.B.

My husband and I do not approve of the new budget proposed for the new City Hall. Several of my neighbors also shared their disapproval but are not inclined to voice their concerns due to their cultural beliefs. We believe that breaking up that part of the strip makes that part of the UMD retail district look weird. You will be taking away the charm and businesses that are already part of the campy weave of Rte. 1.

Our city’s take on the Baltimore Corridor is looking like chopped up blocks of mega tenant apartments between regular storefronts.
Nobody wants a mega apartment/condo/mixed retail space a few blocks from their home. Yet the city just rams it down our throats. No body cares what we suffer only what goes in their pockets and resumes.

Very sad state of affairs indeed. It is a disgrace that my neighbors can’t send their kids to a nearby school (Hollywood), nor CP Academy due to overflow, nor for us to have our own police, yet we have millions budgeted for something that is not greatly needed at this time such as the this City Hall Project.

All of the neighbors believe that we are paying steep taxes for garbage and recycle pick up.

Fazlul, it is so sad to know our voices are silenced most of the time, and ignored all of the time otherwise these projects which are not neighborhood friendly never cease to win.
Thank you for hearing our concerns.

A.B.

20 million dollar city hall?
NO !!! JUST NO !!!!
HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MINDS?????
NO!!!
J.G.
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2 Comments to “Council Decides to Borrow up to $14 million, Clearing Potential Spending of $21 million or More on New City Hall”

  1. By Chris Nagle, April 24, 2019 @ 10:33 am

    Councilmember Kabir- Thank you so much for your vote and your voice of reason on the City Council. It appears you are our only elected official that exercises any fiscal responsibility. And we already know you are the only member who really cares what residents think. Thank you so much for your service to the community.
    C.N.

  2. By Mary Cook, April 24, 2019 @ 11:01 am

    I was one of those residents who spoke against the newly-introduced alternative motion to cap the borrowing to $14 million. I strongly expressed my opinion that an 8-member council should not be making the decision to drive us deeper into debt without putting the issue on the ballot for referendum. No consideration was given to this recommendation.

    In answer to a question I asked earlier in the evening, the City Council will begin holding its meetings in Davis Hall in September. That will make attendance easier, and I hope more North and West College Park residents will take advantage of the opportunity to make their voices heard.

    I cannot thank Councilmember Kabir enough for assembling this information because the City staff certainly has not done so for Mayor and Council let alone residents.