Money for schools draws a crowd Localities plead for share of state construction funds

February 01, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Anne Haddad, Mary Maushard and Andrea Siegel contributed to this article.

ANNAPOLIS -- The lure of millions in school construction money drew leaders from virtually all of Maryland's localities to Annapolis yesterday, but a human wave from Baltimore County threatened to swamp them all.

Facing a county contingent more than 40 strong -- including legislators, school officials and councilmen -- Gov. Parris N. Glendening said at the meeting of the Board of Public Works that he was impressed at the county's solidarity.

Richard N. Dixon, who resigned his House of Delegates seat to become state treasurer, said of Baltimore County's appeal, "I'm almost intimidated by this great show of unity."

At stake yesterday was $61 million in state money the localities are seeking for projects such as renovating Howard County's Dunloggin Middle School and putting new roofs on city schools in the next fiscal year.

Yesterday's appeals were another step toward dividing $133 million in state school construction funds. A final decision will come in late March or April.

Baltimore and the five surrounding counties already have received approval for $28 million in state funds and are seeking millions more.

But with all of Maryland's 24 subdivisions except Talbot and Somerset counties seeking more money, everyone looked for an edge.

Baltimore County leaders said their success last year in obtaining $9 million for school construction -- the second-highest amount the county had received in 20 years -- proves the value of a mass appeal.

"Clearly, it's working," said County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III.

Delegations from Baltimore and from Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties presented united -- but much smaller -- fronts.

In contrast, as Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan led a five-person contingent seeking $61 million, elderly residents who accuse the county of wasting school construction money sat behind him holding protest signs.

Baltimore Superintendent Walter G. Amprey appealed for money to "manage disaster" in several older school buildings, including Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School. There, he said, one boiler has failed and bricks are falling from the walls.

The city also is considering whether to close Highlandtown Elementary School rather than try to renovate the crumbling building, he said.

Harford County, like Baltimore County, wants to renovate and repair old schools instead of building new ones, which dovetailed with the governor's interest in limiting suburban sprawl and renewing decaying neighborhoods.

"It's always easier when local priorities agree with the governor's priorities," Mr. Glendening said. Building new schools is part of a "vicious cycle" that encourages more sprawl, with the accompanying demand for new roads and still more schools, he said.

Howard County has requested $40 million in state funds -- the most in the Baltimore area -- and received $5.7 million. Baltimore County has requested $30 million and received $6.7 million. Carroll County has requested $15 million and received $4.2 million.

Baltimore has requested $13.9 million and received $6.3 million. Harford County has requested $8 million and received $2.5 million. Anne Arundel County has requested $7.1 million and received $3.3 million.

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