HAC chair Robbins resigns, says hopes the “politics” holding up the project can be resolved

Earl Robbins (Frederick News-Post picture 2013)

The longtime Hotel Advisory Committee (HAC) chair Earl Robbins resigned effective the end of 2017. And Mayor Michael O’Connor is not looking to replace him, spokesman Patti Mullins tells us. Robbins was honored by the Mayor & Board in a ceremony at their regular meeting in City Hall, Thursday March 1 — presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by Mayor Michael O’Connor.

Mayor O’Connor is clearly getting personally involved in the hotel project in a way Mayor McClement never did. Under McClement the hotel was mainly a Griffin-HAC effort. With O’Connor it looks more like an O’Connor-Griffin show. And O’Connor is going to push harder to move the project along.

In the City Hall ceremony Mayor O’Connor drew attention to the

Earl Robbins & Mayor O’Connor

time the project has taken to this point. He opened up: “So this evening we have a certificate of appreciation we would like to present to Earl Robbins and it’s.” The sentence went uncompleted and there was silence for five seconds. “I don’t know how I feel about this exactly because when I look at the dates of your service on this it just reminds me how long this hotel and conference center project in downtown Frederick has been in the works, because this is a certificate of appreciation presented to you, Earl, for your work as a member of that downtown hotel and conference center advisory team, and in appreciation for your services as the chairman from 4th of February two thousand and eleven (emphasis on the ‘eleven’) until December 27th 2017. Your time, expertise and knowledge is greatly appreciated and we want to thank you…”

It is now seven years since Robbins was appointed by Mayor McClement to head up the HAC and he wasn’t even the first chairman (Mark Gaver was chair for a year through 2010.)

In remarks after receiving the certificate Robbins said he accepted appointment by former Mayor Randy McClement because he thought the hotel project was “exciting.” He’d thought that then, he said, and he thinks it now.

The project stood to benefit the major employers who sponsored it but also small business downtown, he said.

“The last thing I’d like to say is I hope the politics that is holding the project up, I hope the issues can be worked out so the project can move forward because it is a great project.”

Mayor & Board ceremony in City Hall, March 1

COMMENT: so it is “politics” that is holding the project up? Not entirely. It wasn’t politics that caused the project to lose the confidence of the Maryland Stadium Authority, then of the Maryland Economic Development Corporation (MEDCO.) Initially they liked the project but after several years involvement they dumped it because the longer it went on the more they saw it was ill-conceived and poorly managed.

Four years went by between the City’s appointment of the HAC early 2010 and its production of an RFP. That wasn’t politics.

They chose a very difficult site — historic preservation and archeology issues loom large. It has almost zero usable street frontage so to this day the architect has not been able to design a sensible driveway to the underground parking garage or for deliveries. That’s not politics.

The estimated cost has doubled and the call on taxpayers has nearly trebled. That’s because the early estimates were poor and the project wasted time and money. That is not caused by politics. It does become politics however. It causes people who started in support of their project to lose confidence in it.

Anyway while saying ‘good riddance’ to the HAC even critics of the project can wish Earl Robbins well.

The ceremony can be watched here:

http://cityoffrederick.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=15&clip_id=3541

Bio: 70 this year, Robbins was born and raised in Hampton VA and graduated from Hampton University with an accounting degree in 1970. Most of his career was with the aluminum giant Alcoa where he became a senior PR guy and lobbyist. He was retired in 2011 when Alcoa closed its major Maryland aluminum refinery in Buckeystown. He has since been involved in the Necktie Club, a mentoring organization for teenagers, and other volunteer work. He has spoken of moving to the Carolinas or the desert southwest.

2018.03.06

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