Parham makes capital request

Schools chief seeks $9.3 million from state for construction

Repairs top priority

February 10, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Flanked by a team of top county government leaders, Anne Arundel schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham asked the state Board of Public Works for $9.3 million in school construction funds yesterday, with overdue school repairs her top priority among capital projects.

Parham's appeal -- and those of her counterparts from more than half of Maryland's political subdivisions -- came in an annual ritual that some officials call "the begathon," as they seek a share of about $68 million in leftovers from planned state spending of $262 million on school construction.

The appeals ranged from $427,000 sought by Charles County for help in renovating an elementary school and enclosing an outdoor swimming pool for year-round use, to $36 million that Howard County would like -- mainly for building a new high school and repaying the county for locally-funded schools built during the past decade.

About a third of the money requested by Parham, $3.2 million, would be spent on backlogged maintenance work, which includes fixing roofs, heating systems and boilers at aging county schools.

"Full funding of these vital projects will make a major inroad into our $134 million backlog and go a long way in improving the learning environment in our older schools," the superintendent told the board.

Parham also asked for approval to begin planning an addition at Southern Middle School and money for modernization projects at Mayo and Glendale elementaries.

Demonstrating a new unity among school and county officials, Parham was joined by County Executive Janet S. Owens and County Council members, as well as Anne Arundel's legislative delegation and school board members.

"We are a unified team -- I'm here to strongly support the superintendent's request," Owens told the board. She added a personal note to the proceedings: "Let me say, without stating my age, that I went to Southern Middle School."

Familiar territory

The requests are not new. The Anne Arundel team, which could walk to the State House, and others making longer journeys from across Maryland appealed funding decisions made in November by the Interagency Committee for Public School Construction (IAC).

The county had asked the IAC for $23 million, but only $13.5 million of the request was approved. The committee recommended spending $11.5 million for 30 of the 41 requested school repair projects, and $993,000 for modernization of science labs at Glen Burnie and South River high schools. It also approved $832,000 for technology upgrades in various schools.

At yesterday's hearing, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend sat in the seat of Gov. Parris N. Glendening on the three-member Board of Public Works. The governor was with his wife, Frances Hughes Glendening, who was hospitalized Tuesday at University of Maryland Medical Center with a partly collapsed lung.

The board's other members are Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon.

Deferred projects

Parham asked the board to approve the 11 school maintenance projects put on hold by the IAC. The deferred projects include a new roof at Arundel High and a new ventilation system at Central Elementary.

While the IAC had approved plans for a North County High School addition, it declined to do the same for the Southern Middle project. Planning approval is the first step toward getting construction money, usually preceding funding by a year.

Parham said the Southern Middle project is critical.

"This school was so badly overcrowded that I had to make the tough choice several years ago to relocate the eighth grade to Southern High School," she said. "Approving this request is the important first step in returning middle school students to their appropriate home school."

Parham asked the board to approve construction funding for Mayo and Glendale elementaries -- facilities that are 64 and 50 years old, respectively.

The superintendent is also seeking planning approval for projects at five schools that were deferred by the IAC -- Marley Middle; Marley, Ferndale and Tracey's elementary schools; and the proposed Mountain Road corridor elementary.

"If planning approval for any of these schools is not received, our fiscal 2002 request will be severely restricted," Parham told the board. "Each of these projects is important to us if we are to address the educational needs of all children."

Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.

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