Frederick Aldermen Hold Second Workshop On Downtown Hotel MOU

A vote is scheduled for Oct. 20th.

Frederick, Md (KM)  The role of the Maryland Economic Development Corporation in the proposed downtown Frederick hotel and conference center continued to generate discussion Wednesday night during a Board of Aldermen Workshop.

Elected officials held the workshop to discuss the proposed memorandum of understand which outlines the roles of the  city, county, the State of Maryland and the developer in the construction and operation of the facility proposed for the former News-Post building on East Patrick Street. The Maryland Economic Development Corporation would own the conference center, but Plamondon Hospitality Partners, which was the successful bidder to construct the facility, will operate it.  The city will own the land where the hotel and conference center will be located.

Peter Samuel noted that one of the state agencies involved, the Maryland Stadium Authority, wants to get out of the project. “MEDCO has been brought in instead. They have an appalling record of mismanagement of public money,” he said. “God knows why you want these people here. I think there’s the last kind of people that you want here.”

Also speaking out against MEDCO was Jane Weir. “MEDCO, Rocky Gap, Cambridge Hyatt, disastrous. Lost millions. Almost $200-million before they had to be shut down and sold off,” she said.

But Alderman Michael O’Connor said many of the projects MEDCO has run have been very successful. “In fairness to MEDCO, they’ve had some clunkers, but they’ve had some really good projects as well,” he said. “Their involvement in this project isn’t anything like their involvement,in those two hotel projects.”

Economic Development Director Richard Gifffin said Plamondon Hospitality Partners is taking all the risks for this project.  The city, the county and the state are off the hook if this facility fails.

“As I understand it, most of our college students are staying in dormitories that were built by MEDCO,” said Griffin. “They’ve also been tapped by the Governor to help lift the bonds for the new mag-lev train.”

Also, Budget and Purchasing Director Katie Barkdoll said MEDCO will be issuing parking revenue bonds for the project, which she described as predictable and very little risk.

Griffin also said much of the state funding for the project will come from the capital budget, and not from Tax Increment Financing Bonds by MEDCO. “Public parking, the conference center, the land, the utilities, and road work improvement around the site,” he said.

But there was also  testimony in favor of the downtown hotel and conference center. Donna Zukas, a co-owner of Vini-Culture Wine Bar and Cafe, said this facility would be a benefit. “I’m being asked on a constant basis by my guests that come to my restaurant about hotel accommodations, and I really don’t have anything to offer them,” she said. “Frederick’s a great place. I think we’re seen as that from far and wide. And a project like this can only help the downtown.”

A vote on this memorandum of understanding by the Aldermen is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 20th.

By Kevin McManus