PORT DEPOSIT — The Bainbridge Development Corporation said goodbye Monday to its longtime executive director, Donna Tapley, and thanked the outgoing chairman of the board, Michael Pugh.
BDC also named Carl Roberts as its new chairman, swore in Martha Barchowsky for another four-year term and welcomed former Delegate David Rudolph to the board.
Roberts was chairman until 2011 when the then-Board of County Commissioners did not reappoint him. That was when Pugh was named chairman.
“What’s going to happen in the next 12 months is Maryland Department of the Environment will certify it for industrial development, Cecil County will have a Phase 1 wastewater treatment plan and Port Deposit will consider changing its comprehensive plan to welcome the development,” Roberts said. “We are so far in the right direction on this I can hardly stop giggling.”
“I want to thank Mike Pugh for his leadership,” Roberts added.
When Pugh took over the chairmanship, BDC was operating with $17,000 in its coffers and struggling to make progress on the abandoned site. It can now boast funds of nearly $900,000, with a $302,000 net surplus.
“I know you left BDC better than you found it,” Delegate Kevin Hornberger told Pugh. “You did a fantastic job.”
“To see what’s happened to Bainbridge and now what’s about to happen blows me away,” Roberts said.
In his final remarks, Pugh said decades of frustration are finally coming to an end for the beleaguered former Navy base.
“We have now come to a point where we can see the light of day,” Pugh said. A pilot project has broken the 1,200-acre site into smaller portions for the Navy to test for contaminants and clear it for development. This remediation plan focuses first on 394 acres, according to new executive director, Steve Cassard.
Cassard credited MDE with bringing the two sides together.
“We went from potential litigation to a spirit of cooperation because of our partnership with MDE,” Cassard said.
That led to a memorandum of agreement, which resulted in the investigative remediation.
“The object is to test the site and see if there are threats to health and safety,” Cassard told the board. “By the end of November or early December, we should have the results.”
“If the site is not safe ... we have every indication the Navy is ready to stand up,” Cassard said, adding the Navy has agreed to remediation. “What we hope to achieve is Maryland Department of the Environment (will award) “No Further Action” of the site, which declares the site safe for industrial development.”
Cassard said that MDE certification is money in the bank for developers and is also recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“We’re under a scenario where all these things should work out,” he said.
Chris Moyer, the county’s economic development director, hinted that development is already in the wings.
“We’ve been talking to research and development companies, data centers. They are intrigued and encouraged,” Moyer said, adding, “We’ve never been this close.”
Since the military operations ceased in 1974 there have been numerous failed plans for the property, which Port Deposit annexed in 1999. A motor speedway, amusement park, and residential communities have all fallen by the wayside.
Moyer expects to bring more attention to Bainbridge on Thursday at the Residential Builder and Developer Conference that his office is hosting at Schaefer’s Banquet Hall in Chesapeake City. He told the group he was expecting several dozen to attend this inaugural meeting.
“We have more than 125 signed up and some never saw Cecil County before,” he said. “We are very excited about the prospect.”
Tapley, who announced her departure from her post as executive director in July, was also celebrated by the board and Cassard. Tapley thanked all those with whom she had served.
“I learned a lot from all of you, but I also learned how important this project is to the community at large,” Tapley said. “There are so many areas of expertise all of you provide.”