Cleaning up schools' mess

Carroll County: Commissioners fixing system's sewage plant debacle at Francis Scott Key High.

May 24, 1999

THE CARROLL County commissioners are taking the responsible step to fix the school board's botched job of a new sewage system at Francis Scott Key High School. It's a justifiable move toward the county government assuming greater control of school construction.

Faced with an illegal new sewage treatment plant at Key High in Union Bridge, and no place to discharge the waste, the school board passed the problem to the commissioners. Rather than jumping at the first proposed remedy, the commissioners reasonably called for bids on the project.

Meanwhile, the county planning commission has sharply criticized the school board for a "piecemeal" approach to an ambitious school construction and renovation schedule. The planning body noted the well-known list of embarrassing, costly, ill-managed projects undertaken by the school system. Bad planning, not bad luck, is to blame, the commission maintains.

The Key High expansion is a good example. The school administration failed to get the required state environmental permit, but built a sewage plant anyway. The fallout: The school system must truck waste to Westminster, at a cost of $100,000 a year.

When the county government took over the project, it came up with solutions unexplored by school officials. It moved to satisfy objections of neighbors, offering to build a new access drive and build an ecologically sound disposal of treated effluent in wetlands. (The school board's obstinacy resulted in a lawsuit by neighbors over property encroachment.)

Carroll's elected school board is dependent on the commissioners for its education budget. It has no taxation power. But the school board must be accountable for the problems in construction planning and implementation. Taxpayers deserve better, and the commissioners may well give it to them.

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