Planning board approves list of capital budget items

December 22, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended funding roads projects in South Carroll, renovations to several county buildings, construction of senior centers in North and South Carroll, upgrades to the regional airport and technology improvements for Carroll Community College, and lent its support to efforts to relieve crowding at North Carroll High School.

The commission unanimously approved the proposed capital budget items yesterday, after reviewing the projects and finding local facilities are available or will be available to handle the improvements.

The action "lets the county commissioners know this board supports management and budget recommendations," said Steven C. Horn, county director of planning.

The preliminary recommendations are "a starting point for the CIP [capital improvement projects] and could change a lot," said Ted Zaleski, county director of management and budget. Among the requests are $3.5 million to begin improvements to Routes 26 and 32 in South Carroll, funds officials hope will spur the state to make the highway upgrades.

The planning commission praised efforts to improve operations at Carroll County Regional Airport, including expansion of the terminal, reworking of the facility's master plan and an increase in jet-fuel capacity. The county commissioners recently appointed a technical advisory committee to study expansion at the airport, on Route 97 outside Westminster.

Plans for a new high school to serve the northeastern area of the county have strong community support but did not win state funding approval.

State officials said enrollment projections show the county does not have the 1,200 students needed to fill a $45 million high school. The county did not appeal the state's decision, but the new school remains a capital budget request, Zaleski said.

"At this point, the high school is a capital request," said Ray Prokop, director of facilities for the county school system. "The Board of Education needs to decide if it will remain a priority project or if other projects take priority."

The board could take a "wait-and-see attitude to see if enrollment projections hold," he said.

North Carroll High School has about 300 more students than the building can handle, Prokop said. The school was built for about 1,200 students.

The county has a possible location for another high school at Cape Horn Road near Route 30, but the property, which includes wetlands and forested areas, has not been evaluated as a school site. High schools typically require 40 usable acres.

"At first glance, it seems a little small," Prokop said. "Without a site analysis, it is hard to say. We have a long way to go before we can land a high school on the site."

Given the state's decision and the most recent enrollment projections, the Board of Education might have to re-evaluate its position to move forward with the project, Prokop said.

In the planning commission letter to the county commissioners, members noted "ongoing capacity concerns at North Carroll High School and supported relief efforts related thereto." Among those efforts could be a redrawing of boundary lines, a process which would require public input.

The planning commission did not comment on the $82 million for a new detention center proposed for fiscal year 2010.

"That is still in the process, but there has been no determination of what the center will be or where," Zaleski said. "It is in the CIP so we know its impact."

Zaleski also met with the county commissioners in a closed session yesterday to discuss the operating budget for fiscal 2006, which will begin July 1. He plans to hold a news conference on the budget next month.

"We are setting the table for the commissioners so that when we start talking seriously about the budget, they have an idea of what is coming," Zaleski said. "We are nowhere near decision-making or shaping the budget at this time."

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