Schaefer Nixes Air Conditioning For Noisy School

March 20, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

Gov. William Donald Schaefer has refused to air-condition two elementary schools disrupted by jet noise from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

County delegates were dismayed after learning lateMonday that Schaefer had overruled a March 1 pledge by Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer to pay for the sound-proofing.

"Obviously, nobody is happy when you make an agreement and then turn around and renege on it," said Delegate John Gary, R-Millersville.

"We had a signed agreement and Governor Schaefer has apparently pulled it back," said Mike Raible, the county school board's planningdirector.

A 1987 study found excessive plane noise severely disrupted classes at Oakwood and Glen Burnie Park elementaries. During warm months, when the windows are open, the rumbling of jet engines flying over head every 2 1/2 minutes makes it difficult for students to hear their teachers.

"It's so bad our phys-ed teacher doesn't wantto take our kids outside because they can't hear his whistle," saidWanda Harding, vice president of the Glen Burnie Park Parent-Teachers Organization.

Raible said air conditioning at Oakwood and Glen Burnie Park elementary schools will cost between $160,000 and $1 million.

Under existing rules, the state and federal governments pay most of the costs of soundproofing schools within flight paths. However, the federal government will not pay for air conditioning.

Delegate Joan Cadden, D-Brooklyn Park, said she plans to resurrect a bill that would require the state to pay the difference. A former school board member, Cadden said she had planned to withdraw the legislation after receiving Lighthizer's assurances.

In a March 1 letter to thechairman of a legislative subcommittee, Lighthizer said, "We recognize that the use of (air conditioning) . . . should be funded by the Department as part of the noise abatement program."

Lawmakers speculated that Schaefer may be retaliating for the House of Delegates' opposition to his proposed 6.5 cent increase in the 18.5 cent per-gallon tax on gasoline.

Both schools are located in the district of Delegate Tyras S. "Bunk" Athey, D-Jessup, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. That panel unanimously defeated the gas tax last evening.

"I would hope this (budget item) is not being singled out toget to at any particular group of legislators," said Delegate VictorSulin,D-Severn. "That would be like trying to kill a gnat with a shotgun."

Sulin and Gary -- both members of the House Appropriations Committee -- said the bill could pass.

"One way or another, I'm optimistic this will be resolved," said Sulin, who co-sponsored the bill. "It's just too much of a health issue for it not to be resolved."

"He's walking across thin ice because we still have the capital budget," Gary said. "If he tries to get really ugly, we can just put inthere."

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