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Board of Public Works Delays Vote on $88 Million College Park Dorm

Capital News Service
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

ANNAPOLIS - The Maryland Board of Public Works Wednesday deferred a decision on the approval of a new 650-bed dormitory on the University of Maryland, College Park campus because of its $88 million price tag.

Board members were concerned that the money would come directly from the University System of Maryland's state provided funds rather than as the result of a public-private partnership.

"I see this as an area where the public and private sectors combine," said Comptroller Peter Franchot, one of three members of the Board of Public Works. The other two members are Gov. Martin O'Malley and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp.

Franchot said during the meeting that he would vote against approval of the new dorm, believing that the $88 million could be "better spent" on other campus needs.

The new dorm, Oakland Hall, is currently the most expensive building project on the College Park campus.

The University of Maryland is no stranger to public-private partnerships. The Courtyards and the South Campus Commons, housing built within the last 10 years, are both the result of public-private partnerships.

Such arrangements allow a private developer to assume the burden of construction costs, while gaining control of management.

According to the University of Maryland Facilities Management Web site, the projected date to start building Oakland Hall is August 2009. Construction is expected to be finished by April 2011.

Kopp expressed confidence in the decision of the Board of Regents, despite misgivings about the absence of private companies being involved in the plans.

"I'm ready to support this proposal," Kopp said.

In an economy where contractors are hurting for work, O'Malley said he was surprised there was only one bidder for the project so far.

The Board agreed that it was not ready to approve the design and construction plans, and deferred the decision to the next meeting, which is scheduled for October 15.

O'Malley will also use that meeting to bring hundreds of millions in proposed budget cuts before the Board of Public Works.

An assistant to university Vice President for Administrative Affairs Doug Duncan said Duncan was in meetings for the day and referred questions to the University of Maryland's Director of Procurement James Stirling. Stirling did not believe that the delay either helped or hurt the overall case for the project, and would not speculate further.

"We'll be back on the 15th," Stirling said.

Copyright © University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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