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Charles Carroll Community Center construction may start in November; county plans to honor former school’s history

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners moved Charles Carroll Community Center one step closer to reality Thursday with a vote to approve additional design and engineering services.

Charles Carroll Elementary School closed at the end of the 2015-2016 school year and was later demolished, leaving the Silver Run area without a community focal point. The county plans to build a community center in its place. This week, the commissioners approved spending $7,500 for additional design and engineering services related to locating a septic field, which is included in the project’s contingency budget, said Eric Burdine, bureau chief of building construction for the county.

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Project manager Kirk Engel told the commissioners his hope is that construction of the community center will begin in late November, though he said early December is a possibility. The plan is under review by Carroll County’s stormwater management agency, and the county awaits feedback from the Maryland State Highway Administration, Engel said in an interview.

When complete, the community center will provide a 13,000-square-foot gymnasium with lines drawn for basketball and volleyball, Engel said. When there isn’t a pandemic, it’ll be able to seat upwards of 300 people. Engel hopes the center can open to the public in June 2021, but it’s difficult to say for certain until construction is underway. The county has budgeted approximately $4.1 million for the project, he said.

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“Timeline, overall, is going pretty well,” Engel told the Times.

COVID-19 has affected how county staff interact on the project, he said, as people switched to working remotely. Typically, the county holds community meetings with locals to keep them up-to-date on the project, but Engel said they haven’t met in person since 2019.

For many residents in the area, the former school holds precious memories. Engel said the plan for the community center includes ways to honor the site’s history. A large stump on the property is planned to be carved into the likeness of the school mascot, Chippy the chipmunk, according to Engel. A portion of the original gym floor will mark the entrance to the new gym, and memorabilia will be on display. The steel letters from the front of the building will be part of the seating area.

“We’re very cognizant of the history that’s been there," Engel said.

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On Thursday, county staff asked commissioners to approve an expense related to septic. After reviewing the plans for the community center, the Carroll County Health Department wanted to confirm the number of seepage pits in the septic field, Engel said. An old engineering plan showed nine, when the health department thought there were six. A septic contractor used video equipment to confirm there were indeed six pits and the plan was marked to reflect their location, Engel said. Additionally, a retaining wall had to be designed to create an accessible route from the upper parking lot to the lower parking lot.

The commissioners expressed hope that there will be a groundbreaking ceremony for the community center in the near future. Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, volunteered to dress up as Chippy for the occasion.

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