Deadline close on full gym for Elmer Wolfe School

October 20, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

Almost everyone involved agrees that having a full-size gymnasium at the new Elmer Wolfe Elementary School in Union Bridge would be a good idea.

The school board wants it, the county Department of Recreation and Parks wants it, the New Windsor and Union Bridge recreation councils want it.

The problem is coming up with at least $400,000 in county money to pay for it.

The county commissioners and budget staff must decide by Nov. 1 if it's possible to fund the gym expansion. Otherwise, it will be too late for architects and engineers designing the new Elmer Wolfe school to incorporate changes in design plans.

"I'm in favor of it. The big question is whether we can find the funding," said County Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

Construction plans for Elmer Wolfe call for a small gym, like those found in other elementary schools. A full-size gym would have wood floors, bleacher seats and room for two gym classes.

Recreation councils in the New Windsor and Union Bridge areas say they need a full-size gym to accommodate the growing recreation programs in the area after school.

The idea of doubling the size of the Elmer Wolfe gym was an offshoot of a plan by the Department of Recreation and Parks to help pay for full-size gyms in new county elementary schools.

Beginning in fiscal year 1997, the Recreation and Parks capital budget will include $675,000 to help pay for full-size gyms and separate recreation rooms in all new elementary schools scheduled for construction.

County Recreation and Parks Director Richard Soisson, who came up with the plan, said having full-size gyms would enable community recreation councils to use the facilities for athletic programs.

And the recreation rooms could be used during the school day for other Recreation and Parks programs, such as senior activities and day care.

Mr. Soisson included the extra money for larger gyms beginning in fiscal 1997 because that was when the first new elementary school was slated for construction.

That schedule may change. Originally, plans called for the renovation and expansion of Elmer Wolfe.

But the Carroll school board decided to replace the school after the design committee said that would be more practical than making expensive renovations.

As a result, a new Elmer Wolfe school may be scheduled for construction in fiscal 1996, a year earlier than Mr. Soisson budgeted money to cover the higher cost of the larger gymnasiums.

County school officials must get approval from the state Board of Public Works to build a school instead of expanding and renovating.

At last month's school board meeting, board member Carolyn Scott asked if Mr. Soisson's plan for expanded gyms could be applied a year earlier to Elmer Wolfe.

However, Mr. Soisson said he doesn't think it's possible to transfer any of the Recreation and Parks department's $1.8 million to the fiscal 1996 budget to pay for a full-size gym at Elmer Wolfe.

"There's obviously a need for the projects we've already funded," Mr. Soisson said. "I don't want to sacrifice them to do Elmer Wolfe."

Now, the county budget office is trying to find the money to expand the gym at Elmer Wolfe.

If the county approved $400,000 instead of the full $675,000, Mr. Soisson said, it would be possible to build the full-size gym, but not the separate activities room.

In any case, the commissioners need to decide by Nov. 1.

Incorporating a larger gym and an activities room would require substantial changes to the design plans for Elmer Wolfe, said Vernon Smith, director of the county's school support services.

Architects told school officials that, in order for them to complete the proposed modifications, the school building would have to be relocated on the site to meet setback requirements.

"In all fairness to the design committee, we need to know by Nov. 1 because the committee is moving forward with the construction documents," Mr. Smith said.

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