Gary eliminates funds to reopen Adams Elementary

March 19, 1995|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Black community leaders reacted with anger to the news that County Executive John G. Gary has cut $4.8 million for the reopening of Adams Park Elementary School from the school construction budget.

"As chairman of the Annapolis city council's finance committee, I can tell you the problem has less to do with money than with the government keeping its commitment," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat. "John Gary may be surprised at the firestorm he's created."

Rhonda Pindell Charles, who was among the leaders of the black community who fought to get the school reopened, said she was "very disappointed."

"This goes beyond money," she said. "It's about putting back together a neighborhood that's had some problems. I don't think this neighborhood will give up."

It was almost exactly two years ago that the Anne Arundel County school board voted to reopen Adams Park as an elementary school by 1997. The building houses the Learning Center for students with behavioral problems. The board agreed to relocate the Learning Center to an unspecified site and renovate the building so it could be used as a neighborhood school.

Mr. Gary announced late last week that he'd cut the school board's request for $4.8 million, which was to be spread over the fiscal 1996 and 1997 budgets. Mr. Gary is preparing the fiscal 1996 budget for the County Council's review in May.

"The bond budget is tight, and we've squeezed as much as we can from the impact and waiver fees. We just don't have the funds to match that project," Mr. Gary said Friday. "Unlike the rest of the county, the city of Annapolis doesn't have impact fees. I'm going to talk to them about that so we don't have this problem in the future."

John Hammond, the county's financial officer, explained that the county has "maxed out" its borrowing capabilities because of the costly Detention Center and courthouse projects.

With limited "pay-go" money -- operating cash used to pay for capital projects -- the alternative source of money for school construction projects was impact fees, Mr. Hammond said. Those have been used for school construction projects in other areas of the county.

"With Adams Park, we are looking at a feeder system where overcrowding isn't a problem, and the Learning Center has to go somewhere and that cost has to be factored in, too," Mr. Hammond said.

Mr. Snowden said members of Annapolis' black community are trying to schedule a meeting with Mr. Gary this week to discuss the project.

Children in the Adams Park, College Creek and Clay Street corridor now attend two schools: West Annapolis, about three miles away, and Rolling Knolls, about six miles away.

Proponents of the project have argued that a neighborhood school is important because many Adams Park parents lack transportation to get to those schools, which means they miss parent-teacher conferences, don't join the PTA and are generally uninvolved in their children's school activities.

"This was an important project. That school was going to be a catalyst for the revitalization of the Clay Street corridor," Mr. Snowden said.

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