Don't blame us It wasn't 'eight editorials' that sunk Telemecanique project.

January 17, 1996

FOR THE RECORD, it was not "eight editorials" that put an end to the Carroll County commissioners' plans to purchase the former Telemecanique plant as the site for a new school administration headquarters. Despite W. Benjamin Brown's complaints about our editorials, the commissioners called off the deal because they never made a persuasive argument that the plant was the best location for the Board of Education.

Instead, the commissioners created the impression that the Telemecanique plant was the first site that popped into their minds once they had discarded a misguided plan to put top school officials in rehabilitated 30-year-old surplus buildings.

The only argument the commissioners offered on behalf of the Telemecanique site was that it was cheap. Of course, the commissioners made the same argument for the Martin Marietta buildings they considered at one time. Once they looked closely at the costs of making those surplus structures usable, however, they quickly discovered the worn-out wooden buildings were not the bargain as advertised.

A school board headquarters is a major undertaking involving millions of taxpayer dollars. To locate the best site and construct an appropriate building that meets the needs of the department at a reasonable cost, the commissioners need to rely on experts -- inside and outside county government.

The commissioners ought to begin by engaging in a systematic analysis of priorities. Do they want the building situated on or close to a major road so it is easily accessible? Do they want it close to the county office building? Are there county-owned buildings that might be converted into a school headquarters? Do they want to use the construction of this building as a catalyst for other development? Will this building be the schools' central office far into the next century or will it move again in a couple of decades?

Once those questions are answered, the commissioners can begin evaluating various sites. They should review all county-owned property as well as privately owned parcels. After they have undertaken a thorough analysis and come up with the optimum location at a reasonable cost, they can reasonably expect to read eight editorials supporting the project.

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