Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III traveled to Capitol Hill June 8 to push for federal assistance in moving the county forward, officials said.
Baker met with members of the county’s congressional delegation, White House officials and representatives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). His agenda included a push for more federal tenants in the county. Prince George’s County officials estimate that 25 percent of the area’s federal workforce lives in the county, less then four percent of federal office space leased in the region is located in the county.
“Prince George’s County has a uniquely close relationship to the federal government due to our geographic proximity to Washington, D.C., the federal installations that exist in the county and the fact that 25% of the region’s federal workforce lives in Prince George’s County,” Baker said in a statement.
County officials expressed bitter disappointment their attempt two years ago to lure DHHS to a site near the New Carrollton Metro station failed and the government health agency renewed its lease in Rockville. Since then, county officials have set their sights on the FBI. The U.S. Senate last year passed a resolution to relocate the FBI’s headquarters from the Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW in the District. The resolution states that the new headquarters must be within two miles of a Metro station and 2.5 miles outside the Beltway. The new headquarters building must include at least 2.1 million square feet of rentable office space and a maximum of 4,300 parking spaces. County officials are studying possible locations and planning to try to lure the FBI across the District line.
“We are assessing those sites currently and looking at every possible contingency in terms of how to use the criteria and how it would be supported through infrastructure,” Aubrey Thagard, county assistant Deputy Chief Administrator Aubrey Thagard told the AFRO. “There is a workgroup that has been formed to take a look at all that and to provide an analysis.”
Baker and the council signed a resolution in February agreeing to cooperate in luring the FBI. The county will have to fend off a serious challenge from Fairfax County, Va. for the facility. That county beat Prince George’s to the punch with its bid and already seem to be settled on land around the Franconia-Springfield Metro station
Thagard said he hoped that the House would pass the Senate resolution by this spring, but that has yet to happen.
Baker’s meeting with HUD officials comes at a time where the county needs to repair its relationship with that agency. During the administration of former County Executive Jack B. Johnson, $4.1 million worth of HUD funds were abused as part of the corruption scandal that resulted in Johnson going to prison.
Unfortunately for Prince George’s, the Johnson scandal wasn’t the first misstep it had with HUD. Despite warnings, the Prince George’s Department of Housing and Community Development, was slow in awarding funds in 2009 and that resulted in HUD temporarily revoking a $2 million grant from the county in early 2010.
HUD’s displeasure was backed up by the county’s own Office of Audits and Investigations. In an internal audit, it took DHCD to task for failing to provide adequate funding to meet HUD’S standards. At the same time, the audit also criticized the agency for shady practices when it actually did get around to distributing money.
Since taking over though, Baker has tried to distance himself from that era as he cleared out top-level positions at DHCD; bringing in all new people. As a result, the county is currently $3.5 million per year as part of the HOME program.