For Prince George's county officials, the dedication last week of the new $10.6 million County Administration Building was the fulfillment of a long-held goal - the consolidation of dozens of scattered county agencies under one roof.
But while county officials were implementing their visions of a streamlined bureaucracy, some of the 900 county employees who moved into the building during the past four months were complaining that the move to Upper Marlboro had played havoc with their commuting habits and lifestyles.
Other county workers, especially those who came from older, cramped offices or from the courthouse across the street, have found the change more agreeable. Closer proximity to other county agencies also appeals to employees whose work crosses agency lines. And the larger pool of people in the new building has been appealing to younger men and women.
The move brought together workers from agencies housed in the courthouse and other small office buildings in Upper Marlboro, and from offices in Riverdale, Forestville, Hampton Mall, Hyattsville and Cheverly.
As they moved into the five-story building, called a mini-Kennedy Center by some and a "sore thumb" by others, workmen continued to put the finishing touches on the offices. The building was ready for its dedication, but there are problems.
The elevators still get stuck, the lettering over doorways has peeled off in many places, the building is either too hot or too cold, and the nameplates of Council members, which fell to the floor of the council hearing room several times, have disappeared.
The cafeteria for employees is not set to open until August and the town has only one restaurant and one carryout. Parking facilities are deemed inadequate by employees who must park their cars at the Marlboro Race Track and take a shuttle bus to work.
County officials are appealing for patience. Samuel Wynkoop, deputy chief administrator said, "If only people will permit themselves to forget about the complications. What the building offers more than anything else is a type of work atmosphere that will encourage productivity."
Employees who appeared most disgruntled about the move include those who work for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. They left offices in Riverdale where floor-to-ceiling windows overlooked parkland, where a short drive offered shops, restaurants and doctors' offices.
"I'm disgusted with the move," said Cathie Lyons, a secretary in the MNCPPC's development division. She said she looks on the move as "a big political ploy. No one ever talked to us about it. They just said 'If you don't like the idea, maybe you ought to leave.'
"I am the breadwinner in my family and I have three years of service with MNCPPC. I don't dislike my job. But I am on the road two hours or more everyday and then I have to use the shuttle because I didn't get a parking permit (necessary to park in the garage adjacent to the building)."
Bobbie Carter, a secretary in the legal offices of MNCPPC, agreed with Lyons. "The morale in general about the move is low," she said. "A lot of people are thinking about leaving. There are so many problems. We're on a Centrex phone system now, so we have no phone coverage when we go out to lunch. We have no windows, and we have a longer drive. There are even traffic jams in the morning on Rte. 202 at 8:30 a.m. It is just aggravating."
The parking problem was termed a "bad joke" by James Greene, an engineer in the Transportation Planning Division at MNCPPC.
"They move us out here and," he points to the adjacent garage, "look at it, it's empty," he said. "They have 90 metered spaces there for visitors and there have never been more than 35 people that use them. Instead we have to ride a broken-down shuttle bus to work from the race track."
Wynkoop said the parking problems are inevitable with any new building. "Until there has been a shake-down cruise, where you actually count spaces, it is ridiculous to change the parking system." Parking permits were given to employees through a quota system in each department. "The employees here have a better shake on parking than in most areas," Wynkoop said. "We are providing parking for everybody who wants to come down here."
Despite the displeasure expressed by some, the new building has begun to take on a lived-in look. Council staffers have put up new bookshelves, lined their bosses offices with citations and memorabilia, hung plants. Picnic tables have appeared around the pond and trees and bushes have been planted around a small park.
"I love it here," said Joanne Ricco, a general clerk from personnel.Ricco moved from cramped offices in Hampton Mall where the isolation of her agency left her wondering if she really was a part of the government.
An attractive young woman from Crofton, Ricco looked forward to the move, to meeting "lots of interesting people.
"It's nice to meet people I have been talking to on the phone all this time," she said. "We feel more in the business world now."
Roy Jeffrey, an environmental planner for the Office of Program Planning and Economic Development, has a parking permit - and is contented with the move.
"It provides us with excellent proximity to the rest of government," he said. "Sure we have to brown bag it, but there are no big problems."
Having most of the county agencies under one roof is important to some officials and employees.
"The big thing is that I can walk down the hall to get things done," said Don Weinberg, director of personnel. "This has helped speed up the process of government and gets people talking more to each other about ideas."
Personnel analyst Francie Glendening sees her husband, Council member Parris Glendening, more often during the day because of the move. "We don't see each other that frequently, but it's nice to be close. If we want to make arrangements for dinner or for the evening, all we have to do is take a short walk to one another's office."
Glendening keeps her yogurt in the boss's refrigerator, as do many other employees brown bagging to work. With other meager restaurant facilities in town, there are small kitchens scattered all through the building. One; attached to a conference room in the county executive's office, was rumored to cost $6,000. After cost figures were reported in a weekly newspaper, some equipment was sent back to the manufacturer, some to other county agencies.
Wynkoop is now estimating an August 15 opening date for the building's cafeteria, which he said "should ease some of the problems."