School option for post office

Business leader seeks razing of elementary, relocation to Main St.

June 01, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Hampstead business leader wants the U.S. Postal Service to relocate the post office to the site of the former Hampstead Elementary School, a building that evokes sentimental memories for many and one that town officials have been trying to market for years.

Christian E. Cavey, president of the Hampstead Business Association, said he has not spoken to postal authorities, but believes they are agreeable in theory to his plan to have the town demolish the old elementary school, opening the prime acreage for a new post office and a park.

"This would keep [the post office] downtown," said Cavey. "While some town residents prefer renovating the old school, I have not heard a lot of opposition to demolishing it."

Cavey said he plans to present his plan on June 8 at a public hearing before the Town Council meeting.

Town officials have been lobbying to keep the post office downtown since December, when postal service officials began to solicit public input on the relocation of the town's cramped post office at 4005 Houck Ave.

The mayor and Town Council have strongly opposed placing the new facility anywhere but the downtown business district.

They also want to preserve at least the front portion of the school for sentimental and historical reasons.

Mayor Christopher M. Nevin and council members proposed that postal officials consider renovating the old elementary school on Main Street. The 7-acre site is more than double the size the post office says it needs -- 3 acres for a new 14,000-square-foot facility.

The present facility is 3,600 square feet and has limited parking.

For a number of reasons, including the cost of renovation and removal of hazardous materials, postal officials don't believe the old school location is the best site and are investigating other locations, David Bradshaw, manager of administrative services for the Baltimore District of the Postal Service, has said.

One of the sites being considered is two to three miles north of town, near North Carroll Middle School in Greenmount.

Cavey said he has not sought an estimate for demolishing the old school, but said he believes the job could be done for $50,000 to $60,000.

If Cavey's plan is adopted, it would mean persuading the Carroll County Commissioners to accept it.

In the perfect scenario, the Board of Education would relinquish the property to the county commissioners and they would deed it to the town of Hampstead, Cavey said.

"That would make it possible to demolish the building and sell the property, or a portion of it, to postal authorities," he said.

There may be a better scenario, according to John Lehman, facilities engineer for the postal service.

"The mayor and town have proposed a mixed use for the old school building," he said. "From the beginning, we have not felt that could work, but we have recognized that the building has historical significance."

Should postal officials find themselves as the lone tenant of the old school, Lehman said, he would favor a study to see whether it is feasible to remove the rear portion of the building and keep the front, preserving the historical look.

The idea has merit, Lehman said, but postal officials would need to determine whether it would be cost-effective.

While new post offices must conform to national standards, Lehman said there is some flexibility, and that an outside architect can design an exterior compatible with the surrounding community.

Nevin said he knows postal officials prefer the Greenmount site, but believes they would be receptive to a suitable location closer to town, if not in the downtown business district.

Hearing of Lehman's openness to preserving the historical look, Nevin was pleasantly surprised.

"The idea is worth investigating," he said. "From comments so far and input to come at the public hearing, I hope it all will help set the tone for moving this project forward in a positive manner."

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