Officials prefer to renovate Pasadena school Expansion is $4.3 million less than constructing a new building, board says

July 09, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

With the difference between renovating Fort Smallwood Elementary School and building a new school pegged at $4.3 million, county school officials are recommending the school board stick to its original idea to renovate and expand the 19-year-old Pasadena school.

School board members, stung by criticism of escalating construction costs from County Executive John G. Gary, are to vote tomorrow on whether to renovate and expand the school at $7.4 million or build a new, $11.7 million school on adjacent land the board owns.

Last winter, Gary, a Republican, and County Councilman Thomas Redmond Sr., the Democrat who represents Pasadena, proposed building a new school and a park on nearby property the county would acquire instead of renovating the existing school.

Redmond said in February a new school probably would cost $10 million, excluding land acquisition, but critics claimed the plan pandered to developers and short-changed poorer neighborhoods.

Lisa Ritter, Gary's spokeswoman, said yesterday the issue should be re-examined, now that the difference in the costs has nearly doubled. But, she said, a re-evaluation should include long-range plans for Pasadena's growth.

"How can I justify spending $4 million more when I can do it for $4 million less?" said Joseph H. Foster, school board president.

At least two other board members are leaning his way.

"I'm in for saving money," said board member Michael J. McNelly, of Dunkirk. "I am a little confused that the county executive has been screaming about cost overruns on the one hand and wants to spend more money on the other hand."

Thomas Florestano of Crofton said if the existing structure is sound, he'd prefer to renovate.

Fort Smallwood Elementary was built for about 250 children, but more than 400 attended it last year. School officials are looking to turn it into a 604-student building.

Gary said he wants to convert the existing school into a senior citizens center, which Pasadena lacks.

In February, Redmond suggested the board could retain the old school and eventually remodel it to accommodate increasing enrollments. Redmond said yesterday he is sticking by his proposal.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10: 30 a.m. tomorrow in Board of Education headquarters in Annapolis.

Pub Date: 7/09/96

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