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Herald-Mail: Maryland comptroller opens new office, announces Hagerstown call center

Herald-Mail

Maryland comptroller opens new office, announces Hagerstown call center

July 27, 2017

By Tamela Baker

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot officially opened his newly relocated area office Thursday, but that wasn't all.

Franchot announced that the comptroller's office also will open a new remote customer-call center in downtown Hagerstown in time for the 2018 tax season.

He said it will be the agency's second regional call center. The first was opened in Salisbury earlier this year and currently employs about 20 people.

Franchot said he plans to have the center open by the end of the year.

"Obviously, we have to find the right spot in downtown Hagerstown," he said. "We want it to be right in the City Center."

The comptroller's office operated its local branch office on Public Square downtown until June 1, when the office moved to its new location at 1850 Dual Highway, Suite 201.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce plans to move into the office's previous space in the Professional Arts Building.

The call-center announcement was a boon to local officials who hoped the move wouldn't reflect badly on downtown Hagerstown.

"I was concerned, frankly, that you hadn't announced you were going downtown" before the grand-opening ceremony at the Dual Highway office, said Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said people had asked him about the effect of the comptroller's office moving out of downtown.

"There are so many great things happening downtown that the office moving didn't hurt us," Bruchey said.

But he called the downtown call-center announcement "fantastic news."

Franchot said call-center employees would be taking taxpayers' calls from all over the state, the idea being to cut down the time callers spend on hold.

"We are priding ourselves on quick responses," he said.

"These folks are going to be new employees," Franchot said. "They're gonna go through training programs, so that they can provide customer service to the citizens of the state who call our 800-MD-TAXES number."

During fiscal 2017, which ended June 30, the comptroller's office fielded more than half a million calls.

Franchot said his office chose to put the call center in Hagerstown both for economic development purposes and because he was sure his staff could find good employees here.

He was uncertain how many people would be hired to staff the center but said it would be "a relatively significant number. We're still playing around with the budget on that, but it's not a small office … it takes a while to ramp up, and we want to make sure the legislature's comfortable."

A news release distributed later Thursday said the center would provide up to 12 jobs.

There are seven employees at the branch office on Dual Highway, which provides tax assistance and free state tax-return preparation. The branch is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In the last fiscal year, the branch received 6,600 walk-in visits and assisted with about 1,400 returns, according to Len Foxwell, the comptroller's chief of staff.

"It's a job that's not always easy," Serafini noted, citing the number of frustrated taxpayers who have to contact the comptroller's office.

Serafini welcomed the new branch office site, saying that "the downtown center is just the icing on the cake."

http://www.heraldmailmedia.com/news/local/maryland-comptroller-opens-new-office-announces-hagerstown-call-center/article_a67fb020-5175-57a8-8656-b8ebe84f16b6.html

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