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Maryland county advances schools P3, eyes additional possibilities

Prince George’s County continues to advance its public schools phase 2 P3 and is considering additional P3 opportunities, according to a school district executive.

“Design documents have been drawn up for phase 2,” Shawn Matlock, Director of Capital Programs for Prince George’s County Public Schools, said in an interview with Infralogic.

Matlock said the exclusive negotiation period with the Plenary-led consortium is still in effect, with details such as the size of the yearly availability payment still being worked on.

The project is anticipated to achieve commercial close in June, Matlock said. The financial close date has yet to be determined. Legislation introduced in the Maryland General Assembly, HB 1390 (Amendment), allows the school district additional time to reach financial close on the project. That could allow the school district the opportunity to obtain more favorable financial terms, Matlock said.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Kevin Harris (D.-District 27A), unanimously passed the Maryland House of Representatives on 13 March, and has been referred to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

The district is also considering other P3 projects, Matlock said. One would be an administration building project, in which school district offices would be consolidated in one central location. Matlock said procurement for that project could begin in less than a year.

Another possible P3 could be for the construction of an electrified bus depot. The school district has 14 bus depots that can hold 1,400 school buses, he said.

JLL, which is advising the school district on the schools P3, is not advising the school district on the administration building P3, but the firm is “hopeful” of securing the contract, according to Lindsay Stowell, Executive Vice President and National Executive Advisory Leader at JLL.

A growing number of school districts in the US are looking at building consolidation projects, a trend that has accelerated since COVID-19, Stowell said. A building consolidation project has the benefit of allowing a school district to “free up land for other uses,” she said.

Stowell said she has discussed the PGCPS school construction P3 with other school districts, and that these entities must weigh several factors regarding whether or not to pursue a P3 for these projects.

It is important to emphasize that P3s are not “free money,” and that a school district must ensure that it has a funding stream that will support making availability payments over a 30-year, or longer, period, Stowell said.

Finding that funding might be an easier task for larger school districts, Stowell said. A school district with a smaller budget may find it “more difficult to identify money that can be set aside annually for that long-term payment,” Stowell said.

Other districts in Maryland have contacted Matlock to get more information on PGCPS’s P3 program, and Stowell said she has discussed the P3 program with school districts in Maryland and nationally.

“There is certainly interest,” Stowell said.

The PGCPS Board of Education approved an agreement last September with a Plenary-led consortium to build and maintain the district’s second round of schools under a P3. Ellis Don Capital and Phoenix Infrastructure are other members of the consortium.

The project’s first phase was delivered last year, by a Fengate Capital and Gilbane-led team.

An email to Plenary seeking comment was not returned.