Commissioners vote to demolish Charles Carroll, spend $3.5 million on new structure

Emily Chappell
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

A decision has been made regarding the former Charles Carroll Elementary School building.

After months of deliberation and more discussion Tuesday afternoon, Carroll's Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to raze the current structure and build a new facility, with a larger gym and multipurpose rooms for the community to use.

The school was shut down at the end of the 2015-16 school year, as were North Carroll High and New Windsor Middle schools, and the building's future has been a hot topic since the county took possession of it in the fall and as the commissioners have debated what to do with it.

The future of the former North Carroll High School building also was discussed Tuesday, although the conversation eventually was set aside to be resumed — likely with a decision — at Thursday morning's meeting.

As for the Charles Carroll building, Commissioner Stephen Wantz, a Republican whose 1st District includes the building, continually pushed to be sure residents weren't left with nothing after losing their school.

"I'm leaning towards razing that building and putting something new there for that community," Wantz said Tuesday before the meeting.

He also said he would like to see portions of the building, such as the bricks, saved and reused to retain some of the building's history.

"I want to make sure we incorporate that historical part of it," Wantz said.

Two possible plans were unveiled at the end of February, one to demolish only portions of the current facility and kept the 1974 addition with the gym, or to go with a new structure.

The plan commissioners went with involves tearing down the old facility at a price of about $510,000 and calls for a new 12,000-square-foot structure. The building would be one story and would include a 6,800-square-foot gym with bleachers, as well as two multipurpose rooms.

Cost estimates put the project at about $3.5 million, and previous estimates show it would take about 21/2 years to complete. Scott Moser, deputy director for the Department of Public Works, previously said that during most of the construction and demolition, the outdoor field space would still be usable.

There is currently $1.1 million set aside in capital funds for Charles Carroll, for roof and HVAC projects that were needed. That money, in addition to $2.4 million commissioners voted to pull from a formerly planned project at the Army Reserve building in Westminster, will be used to cover the cost of the project.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, was vocal about building a new facility as opposed to trying to salvage the old building.

"Then you've got a structure, I'm thinking, that will last 40 or 50 years into the future," he said.

With that decision made, attention turned to North Carroll.

Commissioners Doug Howard, R-District 5, and Richard Weaver, R-District 2, whose district includes the school building, presented a concept at the beginning of March that would move Carroll County Public Schools' Central Office, a portion of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and a child care business to the North Carroll High School building, off Md. 482 in Hampstead.

A possible turf field and updated stadium, plus the movement of the CCPS Central Office to North Carroll High, were brought up again Tuesday.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, said he thought it was "premature" to be making decisions on the North Carroll facility, and he said there isn't a set "plan that we're working from yet."

"What point are we going to finally pull the trigger on this?" Wantz said.

Despite some back and forth, commissioners did discuss the possibility of changing the current field at the school to artificial turf, something Frazier pushed for.

"I think it would be a great benefit for the community," he said.

They also started trying to set a cost and timeline for moving CCPS Central Office, although no vote took place. Further discussion on that topic was pushed to Thursday.

Looking ahead

Commissioners also spent some time Tuesday going over ideas that came out of the Combined Education Committee, which was made up of members of the school board, county commissioners, the county's delegation to Annapolis and members of the community, and was created to help close the funding gap between the school system and the county.

Ideas from the committee, focusing on county government, fell into categories primarily dealing with education, economic growth and drawing families to the county, and finding efficiencies.

Howard said that when looking at efficiencies, they shouldn't go with an external audit. Instead of deciding on something expensive, the county should utilize the departments and advisory councils they currently have, and task those groups with working to look for ways to be more efficient, "no matter how efficient they are," he said.

"They know the situation very closely," Howard added.

Frazier agreed, taking the position that going with an outside agency doesn't make sense.

"I think it's cost prohibitive, plus I don't think it's necessary," he said.

Howard suggested taking time after the budget session concludes to meet with advisory groups and senior staff to discuss ways to streamline and become more efficient.

When dealing with education funding — some of the ideas involved flat percentage funding — Howard said it's important to deal with "the actual dollars."

emily.chappell@carrollcountytimes.com

410-857-7862

twitter.com/emilychappell13

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