We’ve all heard it. The County is alleging that there are no more funds available in order to do any more historic Ellicott City flood mitigation work other than that outlined in the 5 Year Plan announced by County Executive (and candidate) Allan Kittleman, and soon-to-be-ex-Council member Jon Weinstein. While it initially sounded good to make that grand announcement, there have been many that have wanted to kick the tires and look under the hood before buying it. A huge issue that many are having (aside with the issues concerning the demolition of historic buildings and the perceived lack of transparency by the County for the who/what/where/hows) is why the Plan appears to chop off sections of an original well-known study of the problem that suggested that many more mitigation measures are needed in order to be most effective. What has been said time and time again is that there is just no money available for anything more. I’m including schools in on this, because the school year has started with what appears to be a larger number of trailers in use for school kids this year.
How would the reader feel if you were told that a Plan was created by the current county government to create a new, large, and prominent civic space in Howard County? Have you heard about it? Won’t it be FABULOUS?? You haven’t heard about it? Here’s some of how the building was described:
It will serve as “a beacon-leading the traveler to the center of town..” Also, “..the building shall convey a public spirit of stability, fairness, dignity, accessibility and permanence.” There are many other words used to describe it, but at the heart of the project is allegedly that the open spaces around it would “..be configured so that they can be enjoyed by the public for a variety of civic uses.”
I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say that I’ve seen no writeup on either Columbia Patch, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Examiner, the Daily Record to indicate that ANY new civic complex in Howard County was coming.
And yet, there is one planned.
Our Council approved one, and our County Executive Kittleman signed off on the legislation that HE asked Council Chair Mary Kay Sigaty to introduce earlier this year that set it into motion. Technically, the original legislation that he asked Sigaty to introduce was Resolution 27-2017, so Last Year. Here’s one 230,000 square foot part of the civic complex, with a peek at what the inside will look like:
Oh, it isn’t big enough?? Don’t worry, that’s just ONE of the buildings. The Plan calls for THREE of these 200,000 plus square foot buildings total, so don’t worry… it’s big enough to be A CIVIC COMPLEX.
“NO, that’s the new Courthouse building, I hear some of you saying.” Yeah, I thought that was all it was too when I was testifying against the passage of the Council Bill that would approve the financing for the P3 agreement for the “design, construction, partial financing, operation and maintenance of a new Courthouse and related Parking Structure”. (That’s the actual language from CB-54-2018 that recently passed). The Courthouse building is just apparently PHASE ONE of a larger plan, so apparently, half a BILLION dollars isn’t all that’s in someone’s Master Plan to be spent there. Did YOU know?
Here’s the writeup for that “Future County Office Facilities”, and below it is the Site Plan so we can see what it looks like:
No, its not a mistake… the site plan isn’t in the public documents that are with the Bill signed by Council. I’m not entirely sure if this means that the current Council HAS or HAS NOT seen the Plan for the Civic Complex? That’d be an interesting question to get the answer for!
Looking at the language of the resolution signed by the current County Council and County Exec in 2017, it was believed at the time (due to testimony provided by Admin Judge Gelfman, Clerk of the Circuit Court Wayne Robey, and a few others) that:
“..it is impossible to accommodate the renovations and expansion required to meet current and future needs..”, that
“The State recently approved a 6th Circuit Court Judge for Howard County, but not space is available to accommodate the additional Judge or the Judge’s staff” , and
“The State requires electronic filing which must be implemented; however, due to its structural makeup, the Existing Courthouse cannot accommodate the infrastructure to support electronic filing.”
In that document, the “Project” was simply called a “courthouse facility”, and the cost for the Project had an estimate of $138,730,000.
A GREAT DEAL HAS CHANGED SINCE THEN.
First, it got exposed that there was NO APPROVED SIXTH JUDGE coming to Howard County. It’s an embarrassment that this false information it’s written in the language for CR27.
Second, it got exposed that renovation work HAD been done on the building, and that there were Plans drawn up for the expansion of the current facility that addressed the safety, parking (a garage with a green roof), a stormwater facility under the current parking lot, and even the space “problems”. They were filed with the County a few years ago. $38 million had been appropriated for that project, under County Exec Ulman. (Some is there now, but more is going to get posted here under the tab “Court Work” at the top, so stay tuned)
Third, Land Records began electronic filing capability in Howard IN 2016!!
And then case e-filing also went live this year IN THE EXISTING BUILDING!!
In addition, the price tag was revealed to be closer to $542 million. This is partly due to the yearly LEASE PAYMENTS we will be making to the private partnership for the next THIRTY YEARS for the building!
So much has turned out to be UNTRUE about the alleged desperation and need for a new courthouse, that it logically makes me wonder what is UNTRUE about other things set to potentially fly through a Council in which they are ALL losing their jobs later this year. It also applies to our current County Executive. Even if they weren’t losing their posts, I have serious reservations and concerns about their ability as a whole to make important decisions given the fiasco and financial albatross that IS the circuit courthouse, civic complex, or whatever someone wants to be honest and call it.
The financial recommendation came in this year from the Spending Affordability folks saying that we needed to REIGN IN SPENDING!! Is that what we’re doing?? NO. When you have to spend, you have to spend, but declaring that the flood spending is an emergency while proposing to spend a mere pittance on mitigation efforts compared to the significant lump sum payout for the courthouse combined with various 5 and 10 year leases for offices/departments being booted out of the Bendix facility seems disingenuous. That so many of our elected officials, candidates and government officials are seemingly choosing to look the other way while all of this is going on, is nothing short of appalling (though a political strategist might say it’s SAFE). I’ve had someone who has a significant political impact in this County essentially tell me that the false statements and misrepresentations weren’t either one. I wonder if we held up the whole thing as a beacon to the next generation in those trailers and portables, what THEIR takeaway would be about what is the EFFECTIVE WAY to get what you want?? I’m wondering what organizations like Leadership Howard would do if I ask them to co-sign on the tactics used by those who pulled this off in the midst of the 2016 flood and continuing into the 2018 flood without a blip! (I’m speaking in terms of the notion that it’s “okay” to perpetuate false information in order to get what you want).
I see space in that building being built out for EIGHT judges, EIGHT of their law clerks, EIGHT secretaries, EIGHT supply closets, EIGHT coat closets, EIGHT of their interns and EIGHT of their toilets (I do want to point out that each toilet space is LARGER than that for the intern, but hey… they’ll take what you give them apparently). There are only one, two, three, four, FIVE judges approved for Howard County.
But that’s not all!!
There is ALSO room being built out for THREE chambers space for THREE Appellate judges there? Yes, they get toilets, supply closets, coat closets, secretary space and TWO law clerks for EACH of them!! We’re making space for WHO? WHY? And space for THREE visiting judges? Yes yes… THREE magistrates too, THREE toilets and THREE secretaries. They must not do much copying (ONE copier).
And hey, there’s going to be a super-large parking garage where you can park for a fee that is yet to be disclosed. But if you don’t feel like navigating a 600 or 1200 space garage (it’s to be expanded)… never fear. They are bringing a whole new RTA bus route number #403 to service the complex!! Looks like the #405 already goes right down Old Annapolis Road (route 108), but okay… you need an entire “new route” for the building I suppose…
The ONLY reason that it can be remotely said that there isn’t money for ALL of the flood remediation suggestions, is because the priority is being placed on this Civic Complex OVER historic Ellicott City flood issues. But then that’s not entirely surprising given the lengths that have been gone to in order to proceed full steam ahead for the courthouse so that it can LEAVE historic Ellicott City, regardless of the cost, “need”, or whether testimony is false or not. Every adult reading this knows the difference between Wants and Needs.
Need= Ellicott City flood mitigation efforts that aren’t just band-aids, that can actually SAVE LIVES by eliminating flood risk as much as possible (since that’s the advertised goal for the Bill)
Want= space for 8 howard county judges, 3 appellate judges, 3 visiting judges, and generally a Civic Complex with 3 mega-buildings that wasn’t disclosed to The Public. (not sure whose WANT this is?)
I bet even the kids in some of the trailers know the difference. I KNOW those in historic Ellicott City know. And, you keep right on kicking the tires and looking under the hood!!
Some of the write-ups written in the Agreement that you likely DIDN’T see:
I’m very PROUD to put my name to this post!! I’m Marlena Jareaux, and I’m actually heading a referendum effort to make something I think is terribly WRONG (see above)… RIGHT (if it can be done, since I’m told that EVERY effort by citizens to attempt referendum so that citizens can make the decision at the election, has failed!!) The entire Council was notified about the effort last week (on advice of counsel), as well as County Exec Kittleman. On a personal note: Allan, I voted for YOU this past election, am a Republican candidate also, but DO NOT STAND WITH YOU on how this Project has unfolded.. particularly when viewed with the lens of EC flood mitigation and school crumbs that are at-best, appear to be leftovers.
I’m one of those down-ballot candidates that I’m sure you think nothing about, but since I am running for a job in the current building, I made it MY business to learn what was going on. Email me if you’d like to discuss this further:
p.s. will be an INTERESTING election for many candidates! “NO”, I expect you won’t vote for me, and that’s TRULY okay. I’m not doing what I’m doing for votes… I’m doing it because it’s THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
*attention State Board of Elections and Linda Lamone: this IS NOT my campaign account, and is NOT subject to the campaign rules. That site is www.sponsorthetruth.com If you know me, you know that blogging and being a watchdog of sorts is what I do, along with business consulting. That’s what this site is for. Thanks, and contact me if you think otherwise.*