County plan for offices is unveiled $4.5 million effort would expand space, consolidate sites

School, court staff affected

Move follows failure to buy Telemecanique plant

February 15, 1996|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

Hoping to alleviate a chronic space crunch in the school and court systems, the County Commissioners yesterday unveiled a $4.5 million plan to build more office space and consolidate operations at two Westminster sites.

The additions to the County Office Building and the Winchester Building onNorth Court Street would accommodate county and school operations, said Steven D. Powell, county director of TC management and budget, who presented the plans to educators and court officials.

The expansion -- and the relocation of school board operations -- would allow the Circuit Court to take over the Courthouse Annex, a building the court now shares with the school administration.

The building plan comes in the wake of the county's failed two-year attempt to purchase the former Telemecanique building in Reese for use by the school system. The commissioners dropped plans to buy the 156,000-square-foot manufacturing plant for $4.2 million after the owner declined to make public a study of a tainted well at the site.

Court and school board officials have been bemoaning the lack of office space for years. Currently, school board offices are spread among county-owned and leased space in Westminster and former schools in Uniontown and Hampstead.

"We've gone over the numbers, we've gone over various alternatives. This is the only thing I've seen that works for everybody," Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown told school board members at an afternoon meeting.

The building plan would be financed by the sale of a bond, Mr. Powell said. Once approved, the project would be completed in about two years.

Although school board members praised the proposal, Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. said the plan did not meet his long-term needs for additional office space.

County officials will meet next week with Judge Beck next week to discuss the matter. One issue that needs to be addressed, Mr. Powell said, is the building of a multipurpose state office building in Carroll County for courts and state agencies. Currently, the state leases office space from the county.

"We really need to sort out our state arrangement and secure a state building here to house those functions," he said.

School officials, too, expressed concern that the expanded Winchester building would not allow them to relocate staff from Hampstead and Uniontown. County officials said the building could be further expanded.

Board member Carolyn Scott commended the plan for keeping school offices centrally located in Westminster and near county government operations.

"I like the idea," she said.

Under the proposal, the Board of Education offices would be relocated from the Courthouse Annex and other facilities to the Winchester building. That building would be expanded by 30,000 square feet, giving school officials 60,000 square feet for administrative needs.

The Circuit Court would assume use of the Courthouse Annex, allowing space for a new judge, a new courtroom and a larger, handicapped-accessible law library, Mr. Powell said.

The proposal also would move the state's attorney office from the Winchester building to the Courthouse Annex. The Board of Elections would move from Winchester to the county-owned multipurpose center across Center Street from the County Office Building. Other county workers would move from Winchester to the County Office Building.

The county and school board would combine vehicle maintenance and warehouse functions at a central location, further streamlining operations and cutting expenses, Mr. Powell said.

There would be other savings, too. The county would no longer maintain facilities in Hampstead and Uniontown or rent space at the airport for library headquarters, school board transportation and other offices. The library headquarters would move to a former school in New Windsor.

Both Hampstead Mayor Christopher Nevin and Hampstead Town Manager Neil Ridgely urged county officials to consider renovating the former Hampstead Elementary School for use by the school board. Commissioners and school board officials, however, have rejected use of the 54,000-square-foot building because of inadequate space and the cost of renovation.

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