New school needed, Hampstead mayor says

September 09, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

North Carroll needs another elementary school, and now is the time to get the project moving, Hampstead Mayor C. Clinton Becker told county commissioners yesterday.

If the school isn't built soon, county officials should impose a building moratorium in the area, he said. Development inside town limits does not account for most of the growth in the area, he said.

"There is a problem, and we need to deal with it," Mr. Becker said.

Crowded schools are a problem for the county, not just towns, he said during the commissioners' quarterly meeting with town mayors at the County Office Building.

Only about one-quarter of the students in Hampstead's two elementary schools live inside town limits, Mr. Becker said.

Some residents were upset that the Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission approved a 220-house development last week, but the development -- section 4 of North Carroll Farms -- had been planned for six years, he said.

"And we still don't have a plan for a school," Mr. Becker said.

The commissioners made no promises to speed planning for the $7.5 million elementary school. Commissioner Donald I. Dell said they would consider the request during capital budget meetings scheduled to begin next month.

The Board of Education has recommended a new elementary school be opened in North Carroll in September 1998; the county has scheduled the school to open two years later. The county owns land for it on Route 30 north of Hampstead.

Mr. Becker said he would like the school to open as soon as possible -- September 1996 or 1997.

One school -- Hampstead Elementary -- is operating over capacity and the other -- Spring Garden Elementary -- is close to capacity, said Kathleen Sanner, assistant in school facilities for public schools.

Hampstead Elementary's capacity is the equivalent of 570 full-time students; officials expect it to have 549 this year, she said. Spring Garden's capacity is 600; officials project 770 this year.

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown said it is the county's responsibility to ensure that adequate schools and other facilities are in place. The county master plan directs growth to occur around the towns, which means the county must help the towns cope with the added people, he said. Commissioner Julia W. Gouge defended county efforts to keep up with the growing school population. Only in the past six years has the county had to borrow money to build schools, she said.

Mr. Brown, who is running for a commission seat in elections next week, said the county should borrow more money, which means selling more general obligation bonds, to pay for schools.

Mrs. Gouge said she does not want "to bond to the point where we put our grandchildren under a debt burden."

Mr. Brown then suggested that the commissioners raise more revenue by increasing the impact fee charged to builders to pay for facilities needed as a result of growth. The additional revenue would strengthen their financial position, putting them in a more favorable position to sell bonds.

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