Housing the School Bureaucracy

January 12, 1994

It is a welcome sign that the Carroll commissioners are rethinking their proposal to house the headquarters of the county's education department in portable office buildings. However, the proposal to use the old Telemecanique Inc. manufacturing plant on Bethel Road also has its drawbacks.

Large, vacant industrial buildings are a scare commodity in Carroll. Commissioner Julia W. Gouge has reservations about taking the former factory off the tax rolls and converting it into a county building. While many companies like to build their plants from the ground up, it is possible that the former Telemecanique plant could be used by a company seeking industrial space. County economic development officials ought to get a realistic assessment of the factory's potential before the building is converted for school administrative use. It is possible that the 154,700-square-foot plant could function as a warehouse as well as a factory.

Another problem with the building is the organic chemical contamination of one of its wells. Telemecanique's parent company has another one of its subsidiaries engaged in a voluntary clean-up, but it is too early to tell whether that effort will be successful. Before the county takes control of this property, the well must be decontaminated. The county can't put itself in the position of cleaning up a well that it did not pollute.

If the commissioners ultimately determine the Telemecanique factory shouldn't or can't be used as the county education department's headquarters, however, neither should they return to the plan to use portable buildings. Housing the education department in donated portables is not a solution; in a very short time, the department would outgrow these temporary quarters.

The commissioners must face the reality that as long as the county has an expanding school system, it will have a burgeoning education bureaucracy. Rather than focus on inexpensive short-term solutions for the education department offices, the commissioners have to face up to a long-term solution.

The county will be better served by building a permanent headquarters that can be expanded as needed rather than by having its education department hopscotch from building to building as it continues to grow.

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