Press Release

February 2, 2011
Senator stays out of battle over Department of Health and Human Services lease

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) of Pikesville is calling on federal authorities to ensure Prince George’s and Montgomery counties are getting a fair chance at government office contracts but said he would not take sides between the two jurisdictions in the battle for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lease.

“This is one of our highest issues,” Cardin told Prince George’s County delegates during a meeting Friday in Annapolis. “The [General Services Administration] will be in my office next week.”

The GSA is responsible for almost all federal government contracting, including securing supplies and negotiating leases for offices and buildings

Cardin’s statements came as Prince George’s leaders are hoping to score a major federal contract by getting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to relocate from Rockville to one of three sites in the county. Metrorail sites at the Mall at Prince Georges, New Carrollton and Largo are the three areas competing for the lease.

Montgomery officials are hoping to keep the department, which is currently in the 40-year-old Parklawn building in Rockville.

GSA officials may award the contract as early as next month, lawmakers and economic development officials said.

Cardin, who represents all of Maryland, said he could not favor Prince George’s for the HHS location.

“I’m not talking about any specific project — especially one that’s competing between two different counties,” he said.

Winning the HHS lease has been a chief goal for county lawmakers, who say Prince George’s has far fewer federal offices than most neighbors in the Washington, D.C., region. A 2007 study by the University of Maryland, College Park found that 5 percent of federal offices were located in the county, and 41 percent of all government office space in the region is in the District. Montgomery County accounts for 16.5 percent and Northern Virginia accounts for 37 percent.

Del. Justin D. Ross (D-Dist. 22) of Hyattsville asked Cardin whether he could step in to help Prince George’s get an edge on the contract.

“It really does feel like the fix is in at the GSA,” said Ross, who said he worries that the contract has been written to favor other counties by downplaying requirements that the site be near a Metrorail station. Sites in Montgomery County are more than a mile away from transit stations, he said.

“We have three sites that are on Metro sites,” he said. “If the federal government is serious about smart growth, they should consider us.”

Emily Barocas, a GSA spokeswoman, said the agency is giving all areas equal consideration.