Funds shifted to keep plans for school on track

November 02, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

The county has rearranged some money to keep construction of Oklahoma Road Middle School progressing toward a September 1996 opening.

"We have site development under way now and will advertise for bids in December," said Lester Surber, supervisor of school facilities and planning. "Bids will be awarded in February for a spring construction" start.

He called the projected opening "very achievable," saying, "If the bids go out in the spring, the estimate for completion is realistic."

The county's budget for fiscal 1995, which began July 1, contains $5.6 million for the new school in Eldersburg, nearly half of the estimated $12.5 million final cost. To put the project out to bid, the county is required by law to have nearly $10 million set aside for the new school.

The county was relying on an expected $3 million contribution from the state, but that money will not be available until fiscal 1996, which will begin July 1 of next year.

The county is essentially reallocating the state's contribution for other projects that are not moving along as quickly as the new school, said Steve Powell, county director of management and budget.

"We identified several alternatives and have assured the county commissioners the money is available on an interim basis," he said. "We made the board feel comfortable that we could accomplish the project."

Grading at the site, south of Liberty Road, should be complete next month. Without the newly allocated money, the project would have been suspended until July.

Based on Board of Education estimates, Mr. Powell said, the county will incur about $950,000 in additional construction costs between the time the bid is awarded and July 1, 1995.

Del. Richard N. Dixon, who has urged the county to fund the project with the expectation of reimbursement from the state, applauded the decision.

TTC "This is essentially what we wanted the county to do all along," said the Carroll Democrat, who is seeking his fourth term in the state legislature. "They need to move along with all due speed and move the schedule forward."

The president of the South Carroll Coalition, a community group that has lobbied for a new school for nearly two years, said the building should be named for the delegate.

"The county should name it the Delegate Richard Dixon School," said Kathleen Horneman. "I know he worked a long time on it. We wouldn't have the school without his efforts."

Sykesville Middle, the area's only school for sixth- through eighth-graders, is more than 200 students above its capacity and is classified "severely inadequate" by the county.

The coalition, stymied in its efforts to get the county to build another school earlier than 1997, turned to Mr. Dixon for help.

The delegate said he faced "all kinds of obstacles" but that he knew "the project could be done" if the state and county worked together.

In a joint news release yesterday, the county commissioners and the Board of Education announced that funding would be made available to ensure a September 1996 opening.

"I would not want to be around if that didn't happen," Ms. Horneman said. "For months, we have said we would insist on a building moratorium unless the school construction proceeded."

Ms. Horneman's youngest child could be in the first sixth-grade class to attend the new school.

"That depends on districting," said Ms. Horneman. "Our neighborhood children may stay at Sykesville Middle School, and that would be fine. It is a good school with an excellent staff."

Mr. Surber said redistricting will start next year as part of the 1995-1996 school year.

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