A fervent supporter of the City hotel Donald Burgess is puzzled by the Maryland Stadium Authority board vote to dump the Frederick hotel project. At the The Real Frederick City Downtown Hotel Conference Center Facebook page he writes:
“Very odd. The preface to the MOU when submitted to the BOA (the city’s Board of Aldermen) said that representatives from each of the five parties participated in drafting the MOU and named MSA executive director Michael Frenz and capital projects director Gary McGuigan.
“Why would MSA participate for almost 6 months (Since April-May) in drafting the MOU, then when time came to sign on the dotted line say ‘We are not interested.’”
Good question, and Mr Burgess is not alone in asking it. The Mayor and board of Aldermen, and County Executive Gardner and Frederick County Councillors are asking that question too. And not only of MSA but of the
backup state agency MEDCO which also rejected the Griffin MOU, though not closing the door to taking another look at the project if the City ever got its act together.
In his oral presentation to local governments the project manager Griffin did give the impression the support of MSA and MEDCO for the MOU was pretty much a done deal. But he did not quite write that.
In his executive summary to City and County government he wrote: “Key representatives from each partnering organization participated in crafting and/or review of the draft MOU and each had its counsel review the MOU.”
And then in a list he named MSA’s executive director Michael Frenz and MSA capital projects director Gary McGuigan, and MEDCO’s executive director Robert Brennan as having done crafting and/or reviewing.
There was so much explicit language that the MOU was not a binding agreement anyway it was not unreasonable to think the MSA, and MEDCO board members might choose to humor Richard Griffin and Frederick by signing up. They would have another opportunity later if and when a binding agreement was negotiated to say ‘No thank you.’
But we pointed out at the time the very text of the MOU itself suggested that the MSA was heavily reducing its role, if not fully withdrawing, from the Frederick project. The MOU said explicitly the few remaining roles for the MSA might be given to another state agency, MEDCO which had gotten only a passing mention in earlier years.
Suddenly MEDCO was to be the ‘owner’ of the publicly financed portion of the complex (the conference center and on-site parking) under a condominium type agreement but it would sign its control and operation over to the developer in a longterm contract. MEDCO would hold the title but only after it had signed away the control and use of the ‘property.’
Some ‘ownership’ that!
They would have had to be suckers for punishment to have signed onto that.
MEDCO has suffered grievously in its only two past involvements in the conference center hotel (CCH) business — at Rocky Gap, western Maryland and at Chesapeake Cambridge, eastern shore CCH projects. MEDCO’s balance sheet has still not recovered from those huge CCH losses. They are ‘in the hole’ about $150m and mostly due to those two CCH projects.
Griffin the supersalesman
Griffin, the consummate salesman, thought he had a reasonable shot at ‘selling’ his Frederick CCH project to these agencies, but after seven years there is little to show beneath the powerpoint glitz. And Griffin’s genuinely charming personality.
It is one thing to have the senior staff of MSA and MEDCO onside to the extent they tell Griffin: “Sure, we’ll present the MOU to our governing board.” Such staff always say: “We staff don’t make the big decisions here. We recommend to the board. They decide.”
It is one thing to present the MOU. It is quite another to have senior staff give a presentation to their board that persuades board members that this battered old project from Frederick, inherently incoherent, mismanaged this way and that, kicked around now for seven years but still without any City permits even, still facing a big historic preservation fight, scrambling to buy land next door because they choose too small a site, the product of a squirrelly procurement, costs having nearly doubled in 3 years, that this crock is worth more staff time, let alone their endorsement.
Just a bump in the road, or a sinkhole?
Also at The Real Frederick City Downtown Hotel Conference Center Facebook page Jill King writes:
“I am sure this (MSA rebuff) is just a bump in the road.”
Tim Wesolek replied: “More like a sink hole.”
Jill King: “We have those too.”
So the loss of support at two major state agencies might be just a bump in the road. Or it might be a sinkhole. Surely bumps and sinkholes in the road pose very different problems for the creaking old jalopy branded DH&CC. 2016.11.15