Site finally found for new school in Sparks

September 11, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The frustrating, 20-month controversy over finding a new site for the burned-out Sparks Elementary School in northern Baltimore County appears over.

"We're going ahead," a cautiously optimistic Gene L. Neff, county school facilities chief, said yesterday as the school board prepared to hire a Baltimore architectural firm to design a one-story brick school. If all goes well, it will open in two years, he said.

The 450-seat school will be on about 50 acres within a larger property now owned by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The county has commissioned a survey to determine which acreage within the property it wants.

The tract, located east of Interstate 83 and southeast of Old Belfast Road, is the second site the county seriously considered. Neff said it was suitable, despite worries about explosives that a demolition firm stores on an adjoining farm.

The county first wanted to build on a 24-acre tract on York Road just south of the old school, but community fears of toxic waste from nearby manufacturing led to a wider search.

The Belfast site will be twice the size of the county's standard elementary school property because of percolation problems discovered in sewage testing. Rural land is not served by sewage pipes, but by septic systems.

Neff said negotiations to buy the archdiocese land for the $10.6 million school won't begin until the survey is done, in about two weeks.

"I'm satisfied that Gene Neff is doing everything he can do to address our concerns," PTA president Laura Eurice said, referring to concerns about construction speed as well as Controlled Demolition Inc.'s stored explosives.

Although the stone school that burned in January 1995 held 286 students, early plans for a replacement called for 600 seats. Neff said that was changed because of plans to build an addition at Seventh District Elementary farther north.

Pub Date: 9/11/96

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