Construction begins on long-awaited Harford public school headquarters building

October 24, 2004|By Kevin T. McVey | Kevin T. McVey,SUN STAFF

Decades of lobbying for a new building to house the Harford County public school headquarters came to fruition Thursday afternoon in Bel Air as officials broke ground for a central administration building on Hickory Avenue.

The ceremony was attended by Bel Air officials, school system employees, and members of the House of Delegates and the county Board of Education. School board President Robert B. Thomas Jr. told the audience that after so many years, it was finally "time to move on and turn this dream into a reality."

The building at 2 Hickory Ave., across from the Bel Air parking garage, will contain archival space on its first level. The second level will house a board meeting room and offices for the human resources, student services and public information departments. The third floor will house the superintendent and other officials, along with the departments of education services and curriculum and instruction. The fourth level will be home to finance and risk management, business services and a budget office.

Funding for the $11.4 million project comes partly from the reallocation of money paid to rent four buildings for school offices in Bel Air. Additional financing comes from the Sun Trust Leasing Corp., and the design work is being done by Banta Campbell Architects Inc. The building will be constructed by Manekin LLC and will take about a year to complete.

Because Bel Air wanted to keep the headquarters in town, officials concentrated on finding a suitable location for the administration building and decided on the vacant lot next to the Bel Air parking garage. Bel Air Town Commissioner Robert Preston said the project will enhance the community.

Since the late 1960s, school officials have sought a new home for their central administrative office. The current headquarters building was erected in 1884 and is in deplorable condition, Thomas said. There are problems with the heating system, the roofing and the windows. The building is also no longer in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"I see this as a win-win situation for the school board, the public schools, the town of Bel Air and Harford County government," Thomas said.

Schools Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas has been with the system for 25 years and said it took a long time to get the new building because "the students' needs always came first."

Haas said she believed that work on the new building needed to get started now because of the low interest rates and because of the Harford County government's generosity.

"All the moons just happened to line up, and this was the right time to get something done," she said. "It's about bringing to reality something that's been like a field of dreams to so many people."

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