Schools consider proposed land deal County offers storage, services in exchange for prime real estate

September 29, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Scott Wilson contributed to this article.

The Gary administration is asking the county school system to swap prime real estate it owns in Annapolis and Pasadena for free storage and workshop space and vehicle maintenance.

The deal would give Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary 36 acres toward a golf course he wants in Pasadena and a building in the Annapolis Historic District that could be used as a bargaining chip.

County government and school officials confirmed that they would meet tomorrow to review the administration proposal.

The county plans to buy a 167,000-square-foot warehouse off Interstate 97 in Millersville from J. E. Smith Box Co. of Baltimore for $3.5 million and share it with the Board of Education. The 25-year-old building was assessed at $3.85 million this year and is expected to need $800,000 in renovations.

What the Board of Education-owned property is worth is unknown; appraisals are in the works.

Of particular interest is the former Board of Education headquarters on Green Street, a block from City Dock.

"It is prime real estate," said city Alderman Louise Hammond, in whose ward it lies.

Last spring, the county floated the idea of trading the Green Street property for the city-owned $3 million Eisenhower Golf Course which the county leases and operates.

City Administrator John L. Prehn said city officials have reservations about that swap.

While some city functions could be consolidated in the Green Street building, "there would have to be a lot of money put into renovating it," he said.

Other sources said the administration could use the Green Street property as a lever to keep the city from annexing more property along Forest Drive.

According to a draft of the county's proposal, the county wants the school system to turn over its 36-acre operations and maintenance site off Fort Smallwood Road in Pasadena; the Green Street building, which houses audiovisual services; and the long-closed Pasadena Elementary School, which sits on 2.5 acres on Pasadena Road that could be rezoned for residential use.

The school system also would abandon two sites it leases for $112,000 a year: a Glen Burnie warehouse and a lot near Lake Waterford in Pasadena, where about 70 special-education school buses are kept.

In exchange, the county would provide at the warehouse storage space room for the operations moved from Fort Smallwood, the bus fleet and the audiovisual services from the Annapolis building.

It would expand its vehicle garage to assume maintenance of all school vehicles and set up a fund to replace old cars owned by the school system.

The county would fold some of its eight warehousing operations into the Millersville building, said Robert J. Dvorak, Gary's chief administrative officer.

What the deal is worth depends on unresolved details, such as what jobs would be cut and what operations would be consolidated.

In addition, the needs of the state's 24 local school boards that use the Green Street building for free during the General Assembly session are not addressed.

Gary has been pushing the school-county consolidation as a money-saver, following the lead of his predecessor, Robert R. Neall, who sought to eliminate duplications in the bureaucracies but met an unreceptive school board.

Each side is widely seen as reluctant to cede control to the other.

School officials remain wary.

"We know what the advantages are. The question is, are there disadvantages?" said Ralph A. Luther, school facilities chief.

He said the Board of Education needs neither the Green Street building nor the old Pasadena school site. The lease on the bus property is tenuous.

"If it can save us some money, it is worth pursuing," said Joseph H. Foster, president of the school board.

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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