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Letter: Build them now!

Editor:

Build It Now is a community based organization of concerned families of Harford County that has been advocating for the replacement of Harford County's aging mulit-building elementary schools. The two elementary schools identified for replacement by prior Boards of Education are Youth's Benefit Elementary School and William Paca Old Post Road.

Elementary school students are at their most formative AND vulnerable. For this reason, it is imperative that we provide them with safe, secure and technologically sufficient learning environments.

We believe that the first of these aging elementary school facilities to be replaced should be Youth's Benefit Elementary School. More than 1,000 children attend Youth's Benefit and it has been identified for replacement as far back as 1996. It has a number of aging facility issues, including, a failing septic, leaking roofs, open classrooms, a significant lack of classroom space, space for assembly and teacher planning, boilers that fail to adequately heat the water in the cafeterias, an inability to increase technology, structural cracks in the framing in one building and increasing lead levels in the water.

For these reasons, we were delighted that the county Executive identified funds for the replacement of Youth's Benefit in the 2013 budget beginning in the 2014 outyears plan.

We were also pleased that the County Council left Youth's Benefit in the budget and indicated their support for the project. A comprehensive scope study was completed in 2007 and design and construction documents were substantially completed in 2009. In fact, Youth's Benefit is shovel ready.

Recently, the county has forward funded capital school projects and received a maximum of 30 percent reimbursement from the state. In the current economic climate, the county is unable to forward fund capital school projects and is hoping to receive up to 50 percent of funding from the state.

In order to secure this level of funding, the capital project process requires a commitment from all four entities: the County Executive, the County Council, the Board of Education and the state. Presenting a single project supported by all local entities provides the greatest opportunity for State support. At this time, Harford County has identified funds for the replacement of Youth's Benefit and it is imperative that the Board of Education continue with this commitment by identifying Youth's Benefit as its first priority for replacement on the 2014 Capital Improvement Plan.

We understand that a countywide evaluation of capital projects is proceeding and that the shift of teacher's pensions to local government will create an additional financial burden that may require the removal of certain capital projects from the budget, but we believe that the county must continue to fund school construction projects that have long been identified for replacement. During these difficult economic times, the county must focus on funding education and public safety.

We ask that the Board of Education include Youth's Benefit in its 2014 Capital Improvement Program and ask for funding form the State for this project. We remain dedicated to partnering with all agencies to ensure that these projects are completed.

Paul MacMillan, Chair

Laura Runyeon

Cyrus Etemad-Moghadam

Beth Poggioli

Ben Flatau

Build It Now Committee

 

 

 

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