Community reacts to Government Center sale plan
Wednesday, 26 December 2012 12:12

Programs housed at the Government Center have faced uncertainty since the county decided to place the building on the open market.
photo by Ben Boehl

Kamenetz says he doesn’t think public is angry

by Ben Boehl

Members of the Greater Dundalk community are trying to save the North Point Government Center. On Dec. 11, Baltimore County announced that the North Point government center was one of three county properties to be placed on the open market. North Point Police Precinct 12 will move from the Government Center to the  site of the soon-to-be-closed Eastwood Elementary School, located on Westham Way off Eastern Avenue, but the future of the remaining programs and organizations in the building are unknown.
    Baltimore County sent out a press release on Dec. 11 that said the county hopes to sell to a buyer who will keep the fields intact near the Government Center, and that programs held inside the Government Center will be moved to nearby schools or community centers.
    One of the programs housed at the Government Center is the Sky is the Limit Community Theatre. Debbie Staigerwald, director of the Community Theatre Program, said she found out about the closing of the Government Center through the newspaper.
    “The county told us they are going to find us another location, but where are we going to find a theatre?” Staigerwald asked.
    Staigerwald acknowledged that moving the program to one of the local high schools with a theatre is not a solution because those schools have their own events. Staigerwald said unless a new facility is built, it will probably be the end of her program.
    “We are very unique in providing therapeutic recreation for people  with disabilities,”  Staigerwald said.
    Michelle Schriefer is a parent who has a child in the theatre program. She noted recent upgrades to the theatre.
    “This building is ours. We just paid for a soundboard and curtains,” Schriefer said. “Now we are told we are going on the street.”
    Schriefer hopes to hold a rally after the holidays, and she created a Facebook page called “Save The North Point Government Center.” There were over 500 members as of Saturday morning.
    “I want to make people aware of what is going on. There are people that don’t read The Dundalk Eagle that don’t know what is going on,” Schriefer said on why she created the page. “I want people talking about it and want them to contact the politicians.”
    The sale of the Government Center won’t just affect county programs, but also the private sector.
    Alliance, Inc. is a private, non-profit 501(c)3 organization that is housed inside the building.
    Rosemary Oberholtzer of Alliance said that the county hasn’t officially contacted the organization about moving and the specifics of when that would happen. She added that if Alliance is forced to leave, it will seek a nearby location.
    “Regardless of what happens, our priority is to stay in this area and keep serving the Dundalk and Essex area,”  Oberholtzer explained.
    Bob Fogle, past president of the Chorus of the Chesapeake, said his group has been around since 1957 and has been in the Government Center since 1988. Fogle said when the chorus travels across the country, they are known as the “chorus from Dundalk,” but he isn’t sure if they can find another home in Dundalk.
    “With the hall closing, we are going to need a new place to meet,” Fogle said. “It’s going to be a problem to stay in Dundalk.”
    Fogle said he heard about the rumors of the government center closing or being sold to developers, so he wasn’t too surprised to hear the news.
    “It wasn’t a shock to me, but it will be a shock to the rest of the members,” Fogle noted.
    Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz was in Dundalk last week and explained that no deal has been announced and the county is in the stage of only looking at proposals. Any land sales must be approved by the County Council and there will be no default aspect to it until the county feels it can make enough money from a proposal. Kamenetz promised there will be a public meeting with public input.
    “All we are doing is announcing the process,” Kamenetz said. “We are talking about six months or more down the road.”
    Kamenetz believes residents are concerned, but said he sees no public anger.
    “First of all, people have questions. I don’t think there is anger,” Kamenetz told The Eagle on Dec. 20. “We are trying to save taxpayers money.”
    Schriefer countered that there is plenty of anger over the decision to sell the government center.    
    “It is completely untrue. If he took a minute and looked at our Facebook page, he would see how angry we are,” Schriefer responded to Kamenetz’s statement. “Everybody is upset. We are losing our home.”