Schools chief asks state for extra money

$4.4 million needed for building projects, Parham tells panel

`The annual beg-a-thon'

County's top priority is addition to North County High

January 25, 2001|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel's school superintendent asked the Maryland Board of Public Works yesterday for an extra $4.4 million in state money to pay for construction projects, most of which are under way.

Flanked by legislators, county officials and the school board president, Superintendent Carol S. Parham asked the board to earmark funds for projects the state has supported in the past but has rejected this year.

"I cannot emphasize how overdue and badly needed all these projects are, and we urge your favorable consideration of all our requests," Parham said.

Parham had a long wait for her turn before the board, which consists of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon. The board also heard pleas from other school systems in a yearly ritual that one school official, in a whisper, called "the annual beg-a-thon."

The governor plans to spend $266 million on school construction this year. About $78 million has yet to be earmarked, and 16 school districts made $154 million in appeals yesterday, said Yale Stenzler, executive director of Maryland's Interagency Committee for State Public School Construction.

The committee failed to recommend several Anne Arundel County projects last month, prompting yesterday's plea. It did approve nearly $15 million for the school system for new roofs, mechanical systems, boilers, computers, and part of an addition for Southern Middle School in Lothian.

Officials were kept waiting yesterday as the Board of Public Works also battled over the pending demolition of Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. Parham didn't get her turn until 1:20 p.m., nearly 2 1/2 hours after her 11 a.m. appointment. But she wasn't complaining.

Anne Arundel's top priority is a 460-seat addition at North County High School in Ferndale. The $17.7 million undertaking will be paid for mostly by the county, but the school system was counting on $3.38 million from the state, which gave the go-ahead for the project last year.

The steel has been purchased, and bids are going out for site preparation. Ground will be broken in mid-April, said Ralph Luther, who oversees construction for the school district.

The Board of Public Works will make its decision in May.

"We ultimately need that cash, or else we'll have to ask for it from the county," Luther said. "In my heart of hearts, I know [the county will] work with us to make sure everything stays on track to the extent they can."

Parents from North County plan to lobby the school board to push harder to find the money at budget hearings next week, said Tommy Thompson, a former North County PTA president. Thompson said he thinks the money will be found.

"I'm not the least bit concerned that it won't be [found]," he said.

Anne Arundel also needs $1.1 million to finish paying for Glendale Elementary School, which should be completed late this year.

Parham also asked that three future renovation projects - at Marley Middle School and Marley and Tracey's elementaries - be given planning approval .

County Executive Janet S. Owens, who is on vacation this week, sent her chief administrative officer, Jerome W. Klasmeier, to stand at Parham's side.

"The last thing [Owens] said before she left Friday was, `Please come over here and endorse Dr. Parham's request to you,'" Klasmeier told the board.

When Anne Arundel's 10 minutes before the Board of Public Works were up, the contingent left the Governor's Reception Room at the State House. On the way out, someone hurrying past Parham asked, "They treat you OK?"

She smiled and replied, "I tried to save you a little bit, too."

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