- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Charles County is set in the coming days to buy back the Indian Head Science and Technology Park in Bryans Road for $6.4 million after the county commissioners declined to investigate the legitimacy of the 2008 contract mandating the purchase.
In addition to establishing the tech park, the contract between the county and current co-owners Corporate Office Properties Trust and Facchina Group of Cos., required the county to buy back the property at its 2008 price within two years of the project being terminated.
COPT and Facchina ended their involvement with the project in an Aug. 7, 2012, letter to the county government.
While approving their fiscal 2015 budget in June, the commissioners voted to pay for the tech park using $2.7 million in capital budget surplus funding and $3.7 million in surplus from the county’s cable fund.
Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said his request that an outside law firm examine the contract was deemed too expensive during a July closed meeting with his colleagues.
“I just wanted to find out whether the contract met the criteria of what a contract with a government entity should be,” Robinson said. “It was certainly a one-sided contract, and I just wanted experts in the field to take a look at it.”
Robinson declined to say exactly how much the analysis would have cost the county but said it was “several thousand dollars” and would not have guaranteed any decrease in the county’s total commitment.
“It could have been spending several thousand dollars and still paying the same price we will be paying,” he said. “We were definitely working under the gun and would have had any outside consultants working very quickly to find out what our options were, and that added to the cost.”
The agreement spurred controversy when it was revealed in the spring — at a time when the county was facing deficits in its operating and capital budgets — that the property had been recently assessed at only $3 million.
Robinson said the board has not discussed any future plans for the tech park.
“We haven’t gotten that far. Obviously, we would like to be able to sell it, but I have no idea what the market would be for that,” he said. “I hope that the county can be successful with doing something that would get back a significant portion of the money that we’re going to have to spend on reacquiring this property.”
Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D), whose district includes the tech park, has told local business leaders and Indian Head town officials that the county is still pursuing the tech park project.
Robinson asked for a legal opinion on the contract during a June 17 briefing on the tech park. At the time, board President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) and Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D) voiced support for Robinson’s proposal.
“Whatever you all want to do to get that, let’s get it,” Rucci said.
At the same meeting, commissioners’ Vice President Reuben B. Collins II (D) expressed ongoing support for the park’s commercial potential.
“This project provides the potential of commercial dollars that will fund many of the things that we hold dearly,” he said. “The whole idea was to use this as an opportunity to generate commercial development and to bring jobs to the community. I think that what’s getting lost in this is the potential that exists there.”
Davis, Collins and Rucci did not return calls seeking comment. Kelly could not be reached for comment.