The Town of Bel Air and The John Carroll School are still negotiating the ultimate fate of a town sewer line that runs under the school's football field.
The private school plans to install two synthetic turf fields, back to back, over the existing football field and an open area to the south, but the $1.3 million project is on hold, awaiting some sort of accommodation about the sewer line, town and school officials say. The sewer line is older than the school, which opened in 1964.
While those talks continue, the town is expediting a project that would rehabilitate the existing 15-inch wide sewer line, even though the focus of the negotiations with John Carroll is to eventually move the line, so it and the new fields are not impacted by each other.
Two actions taken by the Board of Town Commissioners at Monday night's town meeting are, in part, related to the sewer line.
The commissioners approved a $303,729 contract with Insituform, of Chester, Pa., to rehabilitate sewer lines in the Shamrock and Bradford Village neighborhoods and the line running through the John Carroll property. Insituform uses a propriety process to rehabilitate pipelines in place, without digging, according to the company's website.
The commissioners also approved a resolution stating their intent to eventually borrow up to $400,000 to reimburse the sewer fund for fronting money for the rehab project. Finance Director Lisa Moody explained the resolution is to satisfy an IRS regulation regarding tax exempt financing and was necessary so the contract could be approved Monday.
Town Administrator James D. Fielder Jr. said Bel Air wants to get going with the line rehab project, so it does not unduly delay the installation of John Carroll's fields. John Carroll's Director of Facilities Stewart Walker and Donald Lynch, a member of the school's board of trustees, attended Monday's town meeting.
Fielder said negotiations with the school involve both their respective responsibilities on the rehab project and the eventuality of moving the line altogether. He said the two sides hope to sign a memorandum of agreement and are on about the fifth draft.
Whether the sewer line is moved, Fielder and Walker said steps will be taken to minimize its impact on the new fields in the event it might have to be serviced or if there were a leak. That's one of the reasons for the rehab, which the town would be doing anyway, regardless of the fields project, according to Fielder.
Fielder said the talks are progressing and confidently predicted the line "will eventually be moved some day."
John Carroll President Richard J. O'Hara said Wednesday that the town's plan to rehabilitate the line "certainly does provide some mitigation of risk" to the new fields once they are installed.
O'Hara added, however, that the consensus among those involved is the "best long-term solution" is to relocate the sewer line away from the fields. The town, he said, has not presented a cost estimate for moving the line, which town officials estimate carries 60 percent of the sewage generated within Bel Air to a large county-owned main on the southeast side of town.
O'Hara said the rehab of the existing line may be "an acceptable viable option," but the school would like to be able to compare costs for all options. He also said any agreement with the town would also have to be approved by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which owns the school's property.
"We've made good progress in talking to the town, and I think we are at a crossroads where we need to resolve the crux of the matter," he said.