Commissioners Back UAS Building But Lament Delay

By Guy Leonard, St. Mary's County Times

The Commissioners of St. Mary’s County seem ready to throw their official support behind getting the third building constructed at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center for the advancement of unmanned autonomous systems (UAS) but said they were worried that the delay in funding meant opportunities were passing the county by. The project has been pushed out two years in the government budget.

Commissioner Tom Jarboe said one opportunity in particular, a Spanish UAS business that was seeking a site in Maryland to complete their projects for air vehicles that could extract wounded soldiers from the battlefield, could not find a space to do their work here.

“That’s an opportunity we’re missing today,” Jarboe said. “I don’t think the building will be up fast enough to capture the business in front of us today.”

The leadership at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (SMHEC), including the head of the board of governor’s Joe Anderson and the director Mel Powell, came to the commissioners Tuesday for a letter of support to get the Hogan Administration in Annapolis to speed up its review of the project and get funding back into the 2016 state budget.

The project was held up for funding in the governor’s new budget this year because a review of it was not completed on time.

Anderson said the project, which once completed would be owned and operated by the University of Maryland for research and development of unmanned autonomous systems, needed $3.85 million to continue with the design of the building.

Both he and Powell said that it normally takes a year for the proposal for construction, in this case for a 77,000 square foot building, but they are trying to speed up the process.

“The process can be rushed,” Anderson said. “We have every hope that’ll work.”

Commissioner John O’Connor asked what place the third building at SMHEC held in the university system’s priorty list for construction.

“The University of Maryland really doesn’t have a priority list,” Anderson said, adding however that in his conversations with the university leadership that “this is one of their top priorities.

“This is going to be a center for excellence for unmanned autonomous systems.”

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