State grant for schools announced

Allocation includes $5 million for Winters Mill High

`We're absolutely thrilled'

Middle school in South Carroll not given approval

May 08, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

While dividing $295 million in school construction and renovation funding yesterday, the state for the first time said it plans to give the go-ahead and money for Carroll County's new Winters Mill High School, under construction outside Westminster.

Included in yesterday's $8.32 million allocation for Carroll was planning approval and $5 million in construction funding for the new high school.

"We're thrilled, absolutely thrilled," Kathleen Sanner, Carroll's school facilities director, said after scanning the list of Carroll County projects scheduled to be approved tomorrow by the state Board of Public Works, which is considered a formality.

"The state saw the wisdom," interim Schools Superintendent Charles I. Ecker said as he hugged Sanner. "I have to go over and thank the governor."

A $17.4 million renovation of North Carroll Middle School also got the nod from Maryland's Interagency Committee on School Construction, which determines whether school projects across Maryland receive state funding. That puts it in line to get construction funds next year.

The committee also said it approved a $527,000 roof replacement at Northwest Middle and $213,000 in wiring for computer labs and other technology at Elmer A. Wolfe, Mechanicsville, Runnymede, Sandymount, Taneytown and Winfield elementary schools as well as New Windsor, Northwest and Oklahoma Road middle schools.

Absent from the mix was reimbursement for Westminster's nearly $10 million Cranberry Station Elementary, which opened under capacity in August 1999, and for the $14.5 million Shiloh Middle, which opened in Hampstead in the fall. The committee did not grant planning approval for a new middle school in the South Carroll area.

But the biggest news for Carroll was approval of the $35.4 million high school, which has been something of an albatross for county and school officials.

State school planners have repeatedly denied funding for the school, saying enrollments do not justify the facility and potentially leaving county taxpayers with the bill. State officials have said Carroll is the first county in Maryland to begin building a high school without a guarantee of state reimbursement.

But Yale Stenzler, executive director of the state committee that reviews school construction and renovation projects, said new information justifies the project.

"We had a plan submitted by the Board of Education on how to reduce the capacity at the current Westminster High School," he said in an interview after Gov. Parris N. Glendening's announcement yesterday at a news conference in the State House.

Carroll school officials have proposed reducing Westminster High's capacity from 2,030 to 1,550 students, making room for more career and technology programs and funneling students to the new high school.

"Based on that and other information," Stenzler said, "we were able to approve the project."

But Glendening and other public officials hinted at other forces that worked in Carroll's favor.

Acknowledging state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, whose political career began in 1970 with an appointment to the Carroll school board, Glendening pointed out that the treasurer had "made a special effort to make sure Carroll County was taken care of as well."

Dixon was the recipient of relieved hugs and thankful handshakes from the entourage of elected and school officials who drove to Annapolis from Carroll for yesterday's announcement.

"Thank you for the gift," county Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier told Dixon as she embraced him. "You are the only way we would have gotten that money, and we appreciate it."

Carroll officials have requested $14 million toward construction of Winters Mill High. Once it has granted planning approval for a project, as it did to Winters Mill High, the state will pay 65 percent of total construction costs, usually over two years. But that does not include the cost of furniture, equipment and other items.

The $295 million in spending announced yesterday takes Glendening's spending on school construction since he took office to nearly $1.5 billion - putting him within striking distance of the $1.6 billion goal he set early in his administration.

"We're going to absolutely shatter that goal that we had set," the governor said.

The construction budget continued the governor's emphasis on pouring money into established communities in the form of renovations or expansions of existing schools. Twenty-one percent of the money went to construction projects.

Baltimore led the state with $46.6 million in construction aid. Howard was second in the Baltimore metropolitan area, with a record $25 million. Anne Arundel County also fared well, receiving $20.7 million, including $4.2 million for an addition to North County High School. Baltimore County received a relatively modest $18.7 million, but that was largely because its request was modest.

The majority of the state's school construction money is allocated by the interagency committee. The portion announced yesterday was determined by the governor in consultation with the agency. That part of the money is the subject of the annual "begathon," in which school administrators, local officials and lawmakers go before the Board of Public Works to plead for their pet projects. It is also the part in which political influence can play a role. Several times during yesterday's news conference, the governor paused to recognize legislators who were present - all fellow Democrats - for their advocacy on behalf of local projects.

Sun staff writer Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.