Officials request school funds

Ecker asks for more state construction money

Nearly $11 million is goal

Carroll County

January 23, 2003|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

An entourage of 17 Carroll County officials traveled to Annapolis yesterday to woo Maryland's new Republican governor and ask for nearly $11 million for a new Mount Airy elementary school and for the state's final share of construction costs for Westminster's Winters Mill High School.

Carroll's Republican state legislators, who have griped for years about political favoritism by former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, tried to turn the tables at yesterday's Board of Public Works hearing on school construction dollars - the first to include Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

"Trees that are slow-growing usually bear the most fruit," Sen. Larry E. Haines, chairman of Carroll's all-Republican delegation, told Ehrlich. "Well, our tree has been growing for about 36 years and our expectations are pretty high. We're looking for part of the fruit for that growth."

With the tight budget year, the Public Works Board has less fruit to distribute than it has in recent years. Although Glendening suggested in August that $150 million might be allocated for school construction and renovation projects this year, more recent budget estimates have put that amount at $78.5 million. Maryland's 24 school systems have requested $305.9 million in projects.

State school planners have recommended $3.5 million for Carroll this year, including $2.5 million toward a $17.4 million modernization of 46-year-old North Carroll Middle School near Hampstead and heating and air-conditioning projects at North Carroll High and Mount Airy Middle. The state Public Works Board typically approves in the spring recommendations from state school planners and announces additional allocations of the sort that Carroll officials sought yesterday.

Yesterday, Carroll schools Superintendent Charles I. Ecker and a group that included three school board members, county Commissioner Dean L. Minnich and all seven members of the county's Annapolis delegation joined a parade of officials from throughout Maryland appealing to the governor, comptroller and state treasurer for more money. The Carroll officials asked for $6.3 million toward the new $14.5 million elementary school in Mount Airy and $4.5 million in reimbursements for construction of the $34 million Winters Mill High, which opened under budget in August.

They also asked for planning approval for a fine arts addition for South Carroll High. Once it has granted planning approval for a project, the state will pay up to 65 percent of total construction costs, excluding furniture, equipment and other items.

As they awaited their turn at the microphone yesterday, Carroll officials could barely contain their giddiness at the prospect of working with the first Republican governor in 36 years.

The sheer number of legislators, county commissioners, school board members, town officials and county and school staff members who made the trip to Annapolis reflected the change in the political climate, they said.

"I think there's a crowd because all the D's have changed to R's in front of people's titles," said school facilities director Raymond Prokop, who has been making pitches for more school construction money before the state board for years with much less company.

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