- The Washington Times - Monday, August 15, 2005

Montgomery County officials are moving closer to opening an employment center for day laborers in Gaithersburg.

The county has leased a 1,300-square-foot building at Route 355 and Brooks Avenue, not far from a church parking lot where up to 30 day laborers gather daily, said David Humpton, Gaithersburg city manager.

The facility will provide a central meeting place, where employers can find prospective day laborers, said county spokesman David S. Weaver. He said the county expects the center to be open by late fall.

“We’re in the stage of outfitting the building,” Mr. Humpton said. “Within a month, there should be some kind of construction.”

The project came about, Mr. Humpton said, because some residents were concerned about the effect of day laborers on the community. City leaders decided to create a single location, at a relatively remote site, for the men.

One of the sites where day laborers have been gathering is Grace United Methodist Church on Route 355, and members there hope the new facility will change that.

Still, the church is one of three that is providing space and shelter for day laborers until the center is complete, said Mr. Weaver.

Mr. Humpton said officials considered church members’ concerns when choosing the site for the center.

“It’s not a very visible location,” he said. The goal of the center is “to keep these people out of the neighborhood,” he said.

The center has not generated the kind of backlash seen in Herndon, where the town council is expected to vote tonight on whether to designate an official, publicly funded gathering spot for day laborers.

“There’s been very little reaction to the proposal,” Mr. Humpton said of the Gaithersburg center. “Generally, it’s been a positive to get it out of a parking lot and into a building. The parishioners were concerned about people hanging around the church and the retail area there.”

The center will be the third in the county, joining others in Langley Park and Wheaton. The Wheaton center is complete and expected to open in a few weeks, said Kim Propeack, director of community organizing and advocacy for CASA of Maryland.

Mr. Weaver said CASA of Maryland, a Takoma Park nonprofit community action and social services organization that operates the centers in Langley Park and Wheaton, is among those likely to run the Gaithersburg center.

“They have a proven track record of doing a good job,” Mr. Weaver said.

CASA of Maryland has helped with initial preparations for the center, Mrs. Propeack said. She said she expects CASA of Maryland to bid, but the final choice depends on what the workers and county officials want.

“If we bid, we’ll be one of many applying,” she said.

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