Telemecanique Plant as School HQ?

February 14, 1994

Taking a second look at the former Telemecanique factory as a possible headquarters for the Carroll County school system makes much more sense than the county commissioners' original plan to use portable buildings to concoct a central office solution. The Bethel Road plant, even with the possibility it has a contaminated well, has a lot more pluses than the negatives of using donated portables.

While the need for new schools and the renovation of old classrooms should be the system's top priorities, the education administrators need their own place, too. At present, they are occupying space needed by the county courts. In addition, school offices are scattered over a half-dozen locations. The transportation office, for example, is in the Air Business Park, the maintenance department and its warehouse is on Monroe Street. The old Hampstead Elementary is now a school system warehouse. This scattershot arrangement is inefficient and wastes scarce education dollars.

With 154,000 square feet, the former Telemecanique plant has sufficient space to house all of the school system's 280 administrative personnel. And with a 50,000-square-foot warehouse in the building, all of the system's storage needs could be centralized. In addition, the system's resource center could be moved from the basement of Westminster High School and a centralized teacher training center could be added. School officials estimate that the plant could accommodate school department growth for the next 20 to 30 years.

The major drawback of this plan would be the removal of 25 acres of industrial-zoned property from Carroll County's tax rolls. If strong demand existed for this space, converting it for public purposes would be a mistake. However, there seems to be little private interest in the factory. If the school system were to buy land elsewhere, it would still have to remove a similar sized parcel from the tax rolls. There is little likelihood of an industrial tenant moving into the Telemecanique plant as most industrial users seem to prefer designing their own space.

As we said earlier, using portables as school headquarters is a mistake. Given the education department's need for a permanent headquarters, the Telemecanique site merits careful consideration.

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