Residents fight cuts to school projects They want more funds to pay for extra costs of modern facilities

September 06, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

After years of having some of the most outdated schools in the county, western Carroll residents are going to see new walls going up.

And because they know it will be a few decades before this much school building and renovation happen again, they're pushing for what they feel is their fair share.

Two school projects proposed for western Carroll -- a building to replace Elmer Wolfe Elementary School and a renovation of Francis Scott Key High School -- will cost more than school officials originally had hoped.

Elmer Wolfe had been estimated to cost $6.4 million. Bids came in about $1.6 million over budget this spring. Officials made a list of cuts and asked architects to remove them from the design, but Union Bridge residents packed a school board meeting last week to protest that their school would not have some basic features of recently built schools, such as glazed tile walls in the hall and terrazzo tile floors in the entrance ways.

When Union Bridge resident Ted Bertier saw the revised drawing -- minus the mansard roof, bus canopy at the entrance and courtyard -- he didn't think it looked like much of a school.

"I'm sorry to see what the new school came out looking like," said Bertier, an engineer who was on the building planning committee for the school. "It looks like a shopping center, doesn't it?

"We'd like to include the tile walls," he said. "Also the terrazzo floor. Maintenance costs will be a lot less because you won't have to repaint every four or five years."

The school board agreed and decid- ed to restore about #F $617,000 worth of features, including the tile walls and floors, the bus canopy, the courtyard and built-in classroom cabinetwork.

"We should try to maintain some of the character of the original Elmer Wolfe School," said school board member Carolyn Scott, who proposed putting the extra money needed for Elmer Wolfe into the 1997-1998 capital improvements request to the commissioners.

The board voted unanimously to do that, but also will ask the County Commissioners to provide extra money for the project.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said he has no problem if the school board wants to put Elmer Wolfe ahead of other 1997-1998 projects, using the money the county will be able to give them next year.

But he said the county probably can't give an extra $617,000 -- the money will probably have to come at the expense or delay of another school project.

"Why can't someone else wait their turn, as we have, and let

Elmer Wolfe have its share of dollars?" said Debbie Doxson, a Union Bridge parent whose son started kindergarten at Elmer Wolfe's temporary home at the old New Windsor Middle School building.

The former Elmer Wolfe building has been torn down, and the new one is scheduled to open in September 1998.

School board members agreed with the residents. C. Scott Stone told them he and fellow board members don't need to be converted, but the County Commissioners might. "This is the first stage," Stone said.

"The commissioners can say no to us quite easily and have done so often," said Joseph D. Mish, school board president.

Brown said the commissioners have said yes to $23 million in school projects for that part of the county in the past few years.

The Francis Scott Key project could cost more than the original estimate of $13 million, and is another example where school officials may be asking for more money. School officials would like another $750,000 for classroom renovations. They say the additional expenses are because of more sophisticated technology needed in modern high schools.

But one of the most expensive prospects for Key will be a wastewater treatment system. The system may add $1 million to $2 million to the project. Brown said he wants the schools to find an alternative to the most expensive option presented so far -- FTC laying pipes from the high school to nearby Union Bridge's sewer system.

While choosing between Key and Elmer Wolfe, plus several more building projects for other schools, plus county roads and other capital projects, the funding comes from the same taxpayers' pockets, Brown said.

"If we say yes, people are going to have to understand where the money will be shifted from," Brown said. "There's a long way to the end of this discussion."

Pub Date: 9/06/96

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