Craig gives answers
County Executive David Craig, who has pushed for the construction of a new high school on a portion of the current middle school site off Juniata Street, attended Monday's school board meeting. During the public comment portion, he answered questions the board had raised at previous meetings. County Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti, who represents Havre de Grace, also spoke.
The board had previously questioned if a brand new facility were built near Lilly Run, which is historically prone to flooding, would the school system have to fund any stream restoration costs.
The Lilly Run stream restoration project, Craig said, "doesn't affect the board" and would be completed through county, grant and Havre de Grace city funds.
"That is a stream restoration project no matter what happens," he said.
On capacity of the new school, Craig commented, "When we fund any school now in Harford County capacity is not an issue."
What is an issue, he said, is the life cycle of the building.
Craig suggested building a "core facility" that can handle the current capacity without being too big, but one that could handle expansion in a decade or two.
He also addressed what could be done with the existing high school site and building.
The site, Craig said, is an "excellent location for a library," and, to his knowledge, the library is looking for a location to build a new branch in Havre de Grace.
He also discussed the proximity of the high speed Amtrak railroad tracks to the proposed school site.
"We're used to it," Craig said about the noise from the trains, adding that the community center that was built six years ago is closer to the tracks than the proposed school would be.
Lisanti thanked the board members for "reaffirming your commitment to Havre de Grace High School and taking time to consider the scope study."
The councilwoman, who, like Craig, is an HHS graduate, gave several suggestions for the board members to consider during their decision-making process.
In reading the scope study, Lisanti said, it was clear to her that "the limited renovation [option] fails to meet the basic standards set out by Harford County Public Schools."
The scope study had given four options: limited renovations, modernization, an alternative modernization plan and a completely new school.
One of the options had the city closing Congress Avenue, which separates the school's two existing buildings, and using the road as a walkway or for other school use.
That, Lisanti said, may prove to be difficult, as "only the electorate can surplus the land to the Board of Education" and the decision would have to go to referendum among Havre de Grace city voters.
Having attended the school while it was being renovated in the 1980s, Lisanti said she knew first-hand how disruptive it is to the learning process to have construction going on during the school day, and that would prove to be a huge disadvantage to renovating the school.