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Harford school representatives discuss Harris Field project with county council

Some Harford County Council members think the school system may have put "the cart before the horse" on the James R. Harris Stadium project at Havre de Grace High School.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Harford County Public Schools representatives Cornell Brown and Ed Fields explained the need for the project, which would include a visitors fieldhouse and related site improvements, a referee's room in the fieldhouse, adding a canopy over the concession area, new parking, a recycled asphalt walkway from the ticket booth to the bleachers, replacing a fence on either side of the fieldhouse, adding a concrete pad and planter for a future statue at the field's entrance near the ticket booth, the addition of flagpoles, concrete footings and in-ground up-lighting and brick paving in areas from the entrance to the bleachers.

The council only listened to the presentation Tuesday and did not vote on any appropriation.

A resolution supported by Harford County Executive David Craig was introduced in October to allocate up to $400,000 to complete improvements at the field, such as a canopy over the concession stand and various related paving projects.

The school board originally set aside $1 million for the project, but bids came in at $1,313,770. If the council approves the resolution, the county will contribute the remaining funds.

Some council members, however, seemed confused about how the project would move forward without appropriation.

"It seems you got the cart before the horse," Councilman Dion Guthrie said.

"Did you approve something before you got funding for it?" Guthrie asked.

"No," Brown replied.

Brown said the proposed improvements were put out to bid over the summer and the project came in slightly over budget.

Guthrie nevertheless said in the future, the school system should do "everything in the proper order so it doesn't hold the council up."

David Glenn, Havre de Grace City Councilman and Havre de Grace High School graduate, spoke on behalf of the project, saying it would allow the school to have a "bona fide concession stand" and replace its portable toilets.

He said he hoped he could count on the council's support.

Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty and Police Chief Teresa Walter were also in the audience, but did not speak.

The City of Havre de Grace is also waiving utility hook-up fees and inspection fees that will "adjust the numbers slightly to your benefit," said Craig, who is also a graduate of HHS.

The county, Craig added, will give the same support for any other similar field restoration projects to keep things fair among schools.

A contract for $1,134,400 was awarded in August to MRP Contractors LLC for the Harris Stadium improvements project. The company has completed previous projects at Deerfield and Red Pump elementary schools and has worked in other Maryland school districts.

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