Panel of delegates urges Fort Smallwood expansion Plan for new school threatens state funding

July 31, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County stands to lose $1.1 million in school construction funds, the state's share of expanding and renovating Fort Smallwood Elementary School, if the school board decides to build a new school instead, based on school documents.

Yale Stenzler, head of the state Interagency Committee on School Construction, warned in a July 25 letter to school board President Joseph H. Foster that the state "could determine that the proposal [for a new school] can not be supported and that no state funds would be provided for the project."

The state's share has been estimated at $1.1 million.

Based on that letter and the higher cost of a new building, a committee of the county's House delegation voted yesterday to recommend that the full delegation back the $7.4 million expansion project. It is likely the delegation will agree.

But the subcommittee also warned the school board that the project should not cost any more than the budgeted figure.

If a renovation and an expansion go substantially over budget, the board "will have lost credibility with the delegation," said Del. James E. Rzepkowski.

Over two years, the school construction program has been troubled with more than $7 million in overruns and unanticipated construction expenditures.

Fort Smallwood in Pasadena is the county's most crowded elementary school, with about 40 percent more students than it was designed for.

The school board had planned a renovation and an expansion of the building, but last winter County Executive John G. Gary and Thomas Redmond Sr., county councilman for the district, began pushing for a new school close to where developers want to build expensive homes.

Gary has suggested turning the old school into a senior citizens center or satellite building for county services. This month, the County Council gave the school board $422,000 for feasibility studies.

In his letter, Stenzler said the state has been given "no educational justification" for a new school and that there is "no documented study by an independent architect or engineer identifying the problems or deficiencies that could not be corrected through a renovation project."

Moreover, if the 19-year-old building is in good enough condition for another public use, the school system could not justify abandoning it.

The IAC would need a full feasibility study to consider a new school but is not recommending that, Stenzler said.

The eight-member school board is scheduled to vote next Wednesday on Fort Smallwood's fate.

"I think we need to get all the information in and look at all the information and make the best decision on what is provided to us," Foster said.

Pub Date: 7/31/96

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