Wrong Site, Wrong Price, Wrong Deal

July 25, 1995

Carroll County's planned purchase of the former Telemecanique building to be used as headquarters for the Board of Education makes little sense from any perspective.

If the county commissioners -- W. Benjamin Brown, Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates -- go through with this purchase, the board will be long remembered for squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this boondoggle.

There could hardly be a worse location or a worse building for the school headquarters.

The Telemecanique site on Bethel Road in Reese is not an appropriate location for a government department of 250 people. The two-lane country road is barely adequate for the current residents, let alone the hundreds of vehicles that will use it daily once the headquarters relocates from Westminster. In addition, the intersection of Bethel Road and Westminster Pike cannot handle large numbers of cars without a traffic light. Adding a signal will just compound the current woes on Westminster Pike.

Moreover, the industrial building on the site is designed for manufacturing use. Placing offices in it makes little sense.

The decision is as foolish as trying to plow a field with a car instead of a tractor. Both have an engine and four wheels, but no matter how much you modify the car, the tractor will always outperform it. The county will need to invest exorbitant amounts of money to make this building acceptable for office use.

In addition, why is the county purchasing a property with documented environmental problems? This building, which used to house an electric components manufacturer, does not even have public water and sewer service, so ground water contamination is a serious issue. Will the county end up buying bottled water in order to provide clean and safe drinking water for education department employees?

Here's another question: Why are the commissioners, who are notoriously tight with money, so willing to part with $4.2 million for this building? In 1993, the property was assessed for $2 million.

Could it be that the three county commissioners have a soft spot for the Bair family, which has owned the property for four decades and now can't find a buyer?

It is not too late for the commissioners to back out of this deal. For the sake of this county and its taxpayers, they must.

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