What was once La Plata's high school football field could be transformed into a new county government center and community amphitheater after the Charles County commissioners voted this week to start from scratch to ease cramped conditions in the existing building.
After reviewing three options, the commissioners unanimously accepted the recommendation of county staff members to pursue a new executive office building on the vacant site just up Charles Street from Christ Church and the county courthouse.
The commissioners endorsed the middle-of-the-road choice, which is projected to cost $15 million and take at least two years to design and build. A very preliminary artist's rendering of a possible structure showed a two-story Greek Revival-style building with pillars, a cupola and two levels of underground parking.
Michael Mudd, director of public facilities, told the commissioners that the county government building has no more room. "We're pretty much maxed out," he said. "We've run out of space."
In choosing this course, the commissioners rejected the idea of spending $25 million to purchase 100 acres on Rosewick Road and build a county government complex on the site.
Commissioners Edith J. Patterson (D-Pomfret) and Candice Quinn Kelly (R-La Plata) said it was appealing to remain in the heart of La Plata and close to other community services such as the Charles County Courthouse.
But Commissioner Al Smith (R-Waldorf) worried that county employees would lose valuable work time if they had to shuttle between the current county government building and the planned office structure on the football field site, which is used as a soccer practice field. Smith initially favored moving the government center to a spacious location with land to grow.
"You will not have all of county government under one roof," he said. "Can you imagine what the wait will be?"
Smith joined fellow commissioners in backing the plan to build at the current location.
A third option, also rejected by the commissioners, proposed expanding the existing county government building. The two additions Mudd described were projected to cost $2.6 million and take 18 months to two years to complete.
In the end, the commissioners agreed with Mudd that an expansion would serve only as a short-term fix and that taxpayer dollars would be better spent on a new building. They directed him to pursue a more detailed study of the athletic field site.
The existing county government building could eventually become home to other community resources, such as the La Plata library, or county departments and agencies that are scattered among other locations in and near La Plata.
Until 1964, the building on Baltimore Street was La Plata High School. It was home to Milton Somers Middle School until 1986, when the county government moved in.
"The county is growing," Mudd said, "and we need to be looking ahead."