ANNAPOLIS – The Board of Public Works moved this week to bring another auto processing plant to the Port of Baltimore despite concerns raised by spokesmen from plants already in the port.
The board agreed to allow the Maryland Port Administration to proceed with a $40 million, 20-year lease it has negotiated with ATC Logistics Inc., which is slated to move into the new plant once it’s built — possibly as early as 2000.
However, the board will reconsider the venture if construction bids for the plant come back 20 percent or more higher than the construction estimate of $18 million, said Gov. Parris N. Glendening and other state officials. The state would then determine whether or not to go forward with the plant’s construction.
Glendening, one of three members of the Board of Public Works, said building the plant is in the state’s interest. “Maintaining and growing the auto business is key to the port’s goal of creating more jobs for Maryland,” the Democrat said.
The plant could provide more than 300 jobs, Glendening and other state officials said.
But spokesmen for two of the four existing auto processing plants in the port said at Wednesday’s meeting they were concerned that the port administration is ignoring potential environmental problems by building on soil that has been dredged from the bottom of the Patapsco River.
The plant would be located in Baltimore on the south side of that river, across from Fort McHenry.
Tom Matte, a vice president for Florida-based ATC, called the environmental criticisms “a last-minute stalling tactic.” He said contaminants have been removed from the site.
“They don’t want the competition,” he said of critics.
Spokesmen for the existing plants also said they were concerned that the state is directly aiding their competition by building the plant.
“Competition is good, but this is state-subsidized competition, and we’re going to fight it,” said Timothy Chadwick, a representative of Hobelmann Port Services, one of the four plants in the port.
Judi Scioli, a general manager for the port administration, disagreed. “We are building a factory that ATC has agreed to lease,” she said. “The MPA is not in the auto-processing business.”
ATC plans to develop 50 acres of the 168-acre site, state officials said. More than 56 of the remaining acres will remain as wetlands, while other portions of the land may be developed if market demands show additional space is needed.
The plant would receive cars being imported into the country and exported to other countries. At the plant, workers would ensure that the cars meet the requirements of this country and of those countries they are being shipped to.