www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-county/bs-md-co-property-sales-20121211,0,7073265.story

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Baltimore County wants to sell government land to fund school improvements

Properties in Dundalk, Randallstown, Towson targeted; some residents have opposed move of public facilities

By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun

December 11, 2012

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Baltimore County wants to sell three government properties to developers to raise money for air conditioning and better technology at schools in Dundalk, Randallstown and Towson.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is expected to announce a plan Tuesday to put the public facilities up for bid and find better spots for the government services located there. The buildings are the North Point Government Center on Wise Avenue in Dundalk, the Towson fire station on York Road, and the Randallstown police substation on Liberty Road.

The plan would require relocations for a number of government services and a school, and talk of moving public facilities has sparked dispute in some communities in recent months. In Towson, for instance, residents have protested a proposal to move the firehouse to Towson Manor Park. And in Dundalk, neighbors spoke out this year when developer John Vontran floated the idea of building big-box stores at the North Point center and moving the county offices there to the former Seagram's distillery that he owns.

If the county can sell the properties for a profit, the money would help schools in Dundalk, Randallstown and Towson. In a statement, Kamenetz said he has been working with schools Superintendent Dallas Dance to find "creative ways" to fix the county's school infrastructure.

"We are both committed to improving technology and increasing the number of schools that are fully air-conditioned, and utilizing these funds is another example of what can be accomplished when we work together," Kamenetz said.

The county executive's office said Monday that the administration decided on the three properties after reviewing county-owned land to find parcels located along heavily traveled commercial corridors that could be privately redeveloped. The county plans to put bid requests out within the next few weeks and receive responses from interested buyers within three months. Officials would then make recommendations on sales to the County Council, which would have 90 days to approve the land sales.

On the county's east side, the North Point police precinct at the government center would move to the building that now houses Eastwood Center Elementary, a magnet program focusing on environmental science. Students would be moved to another location, possibly Holabird Middle School.

Holabird Middle is only about 60 percent full, county officials said. The county would use the profit from the potential sale to upgrade technology there and air-condition one or two elementary schools in the area.

Also, county recreational programs now operating at the North Point center would move to nearby schools or community centers, officials said, but the bid process would require that any developer leave intact the recreational fields near the center or "provide comparable field space."

In Towson, the fire station on York Road would be sold and moved to a site where it would have better facilities. The current station was built in 1958, officials said. Cash raised from the sale would help pay for air conditioning at Dumbarton Middle School.

A proposal to move the station to Towson Manor Park has sparked opposition from residents who don't want to lose the park. Kamenetz's administration said it is looking for other potential sites.

In Randallstown, the police substation would move to the county's vehicle operation and management building on Liberty Road, a site the county now owns that previously was used by a car dealership. The money from the sale of the police substation site would fund air conditioning or technology improvements at a school in Randallstown, which hasn't yet been picked, officials said.

alisonk@baltsun.com

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