Officials in Maryland are hoping mad about the decision by the Department of Treasury to move 450 jobs from its Financial Management Service (FMS) office in Hyattsville, Md. to Parkersburg, W.Va.

Six members of Maryland’s congressional delegation denounced the move in a joint statement Aug. 29. One of those members, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) has been vocal about federal leasing in Prince George’s and, through a spokesman, said she will continue to fight to hold onto the jobs.

“Congresswoman Edwards is absolutely going to continue to be involved in this issue,” Ben Gerdes, spokesman for Edwards, told the {AFRO}. “I can tell you that Congresswoman Edwards continues to fight to ensure that the interests of the 450 workers from Hyattsville are protected.”

The 450 positions moving to West Virginia would help to avert the relocation back to Maryland of an additional 1,850 Treasury jobs from the Bureau of Public Debt (BPD), a sub-agency already relocated there. Those jobs were in danger of being shifted back to Maryland after the department proposed a consolidation of the BPD and the FMS into one organization called the Fiscal Service. The consolidation could save the agency $96 million over the next five years.

Sources familiar with the relocation says it will be done in two phases with 50 positions being transferred by February 2014 and the other 400 being transferred by January 2015. The Treasury Department says anyone who wants to retain their positions will have to relocate. Those unwilling to relocate will be offered early retirement or a buyout, plus placement assistance. Despite the move, Treasury officials say that there will still be 200-300 jobs in Prince George’s County.

“We are sensitive to the impact this consolidation will have on employees at the facility and the community in Maryland, and we are prepared to take ample measures to assist all staff in the transition,” said a Treasury spokesperson.
While Prince George’s officials are disappointed with the move, officials in West Virginia are hailing it. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D.-W.Va.) wrote a letter July 10 to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in July asking him to leave jobs in West Virginia. In a statement, after the announcement was made Aug. 29, said he was pleased that Geithner affirmed his request.

However, this is just the latest in a stream of disappointment the county has faced in getting federal tenants to lease in Prince George’s County. According to officials in the County Executive Rushern L. Baker III’s administration, the county had 25 percent of the region’s federal workforce, but only 3.7 percent of the region’s federally leased office space before the announcement.

The county has made efforts under Baker to increase federally leased space in Prince George’s. The first major attempt was its bid to attract the Department of Health and Human Services to areas surrounding University Town Center in Hyattsville, Largo Town Center Metro station or the New Carrollton Metro station. That bid failed as HHS chose to stay at a facility on Fishers Lane in Rockville.

Currently, the county is fighting to attract FBI headquarters from the Hoover Building in downtown Washington to Prince George’s County. Baker has mentioned that the most likely locations in the county would be surrounding the Greenbelt, Largo Town Center, or Branch Avenue metro stations.

The county will have to fend off Fairfax County for that development opportunity. The Virginia county has already forged a plan to make development near the Franconia-Springfield Metro Station as attractive as possible.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) joined fellow Maryland delegation member Edwards in expressing their disappointment. However, this is an issue that Edwards has championed in the past. She says one of the major issues she’s had with the General Servicing Administration, the government agency that handles much of the government’s leasing, is that GSA hasn’t always been transparent about how it makes deals.

“I have asked very pointed questions on the record and challenged on the way they engage in leasing,” Edwards previously told the {AFRO}.

“I do think that it is having the effect of making GSA more accountable in its process,” she continued. “We are simply not enjoying the most justice of the federal government when it comes to parity in the region around leasing opportunities. We’ve just got to keep the pressure on.”

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO