Builder Offers Plan For School

Piney Orchard's Developer May Oversee Construction For County

April 24, 1997|By Tanya Jones and Andrea F. Siegel | Tanya Jones and Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The developer of Piney Orchard in Odenton wants to put up an elementary school in the community at least two years sooner than the county school system would build the structure, and possibly for less money.

If local school and state officials approve, it would be the first such arrangement in the state.

The county could use millions in developer fees already collected from Constellation Real Estate Inc., the developer, under a proposal being worked out by the company, school officials and county budget officials. Constellation, a subsidiary of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., would be the contractor and build the school according to county specifications -- then turn over the keys to the school system, according to company officials.

"Government, by its very nature has purchasing controls and other [constraints] that the private sector does not have," said Robert Strott, senior vice president of Constellation. "We can act as our own general contractor. We have construction management ability."

The county generally spends $10 million to build an elementary school and outfit it with furniture, fixtures and books, according to Gregory Nourse, the school system budget director.

But Constellation could save the school system money with better competitive bidding procedures, bulk purchases, and changes in materials, products or design, according to Strott.

"We are going to take a shot at it," he said.

County and school officials say the proposal is worth considering.

"I think it's an interesting proposal," said Ray Elwell, county budget analyst. "It's something that we'll have to look at very seriously."

School board President Joseph H. Foster said he's willing to consider the proposal but wants to ensure that the school system can afford the teachers, administrators, furniture and books the school would need.

Constellation would like to open the school in fall 1999, as opposed to 2001, the earliest the school system would open one.

Other communities would not be shortchanged or forced to wait any longer for schools in their areas, Nourse said. "It's not like it would push other projects back."

The company gave the county $3.7 million in a development agreement in 1989 and since then has also paid mandated impact fees into a different fund to be used for school projects. The original amount from the development agreement is now worth $5.1 million, according to Elwell. But the impact fees collected from Constellation and other developers in the western part of the county have been largely tapped for projects such as the Meade area middle school and Meade Heights elementary, he said.

It is still unclear where additional money would come from and whether impact fees from other developments in the area would help cover the yet-undetermined full cost of building the school.

Constellation has given the county 18 acres for the school and 3 acres for extra playing fields in the middle of its 1,500-acre development.

"We don't anticipate paying anything more," Strott said about the agreement now being worked out with the county and schools.

While nothing has been formally presented to the school board, the company would like to build the school as quickly as possible. It is a selling point for the community of 4,000 planned units, said company officials. About 1,600 single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and apartments have been built.

"That's one of the key things that consumers look for in a community, when you can offer a school that you can practically walk to. We've already told them that it's on the drawing board," said Larry Lichtenauer, director of communications for Constellation. "It will become a focal point in the community."

Pub Date: 4/24/97

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