Funding for Third Univ. Bldg. Out of State Budget

By Guy Leonard, St. Mary's County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (April 16, 2015)—As the dust is settling from the end of Monday night’s legislative session in Annapolis St. Mary’s County appears to have lost out on construction money for the design phase of the third building at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center.

Since state funding is not available — the cost of the design phase was put at $3.85 million — except for about $700,000 in supplemental and grant funding, county commissioners are considering whether to try to fund the project on their own.

Commissioners Mike Hewitt and Todd Morgan expressed interest in putting up county funds to at least get the design phase of the project moving.

“This building’s worth fighting for,” Hewitt said Tuesday but he said he was wary of putting up county money unless there was a guarantee that the building would be constructed.

The $3.85 million in design funds is just the beginning since the final cost for constructing the facility will be more than $70 million.

Commissioner Tom Jarboe said that though there may be a desire to use county funds for the project there has been no firm decision to do so.

“We don’t have firm numbers on this,” Jarboe said, adding that commissioners needed more information on the situation.

The commissioners had already offered to put $1 million in tax payer funds to ensure the building design went ahead if the state put construction money back in the budget.

With the $700,000 in state money and the commissioner funds, another $2.1 million is needed to design the building.

Joe Anderson, head of the Board of Governors of the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center, said the board would support the commissioners help in getting the third building constructed.

“It would send a strong message to everybody,” Anderson said. “It would mark these commissioners as one of the most progressive and forward thinking group of commissioners we’ve ever had.”

Some political observers have doubted the commitment of state officials and even the University System of Maryland in really being supportive of the project but Anderson said the system was in full favor of the project. “The university system is totally behind this project,” Anderson said.

In the weeks leading up to the end of the legislative session the university system found about $2.4 million in its own funds that could have gone to the project but was reprogrammed by law makers.

“It wasn’t their decision, it was the legislature’s decision,” Anderson said. “The competition for capital funding is extremely high.” Anderson said he still believed there was hope for the project to move ahead in fiscal 2016.

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