District 2 Town Hall gets residents in round-table discussion about North Carroll's future

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, spoke to a crowd of about 40 people at his District 2 Town Hall meeting at North Carroll branch library on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.
Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, spoke to a crowd of about 40 people at his District 2 Town Hall meeting at North Carroll branch library on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. (Jennifer Turiano / Carroll County Times)

HAMPSTEAD — Nearly 40 people showed up at the North Carroll branch of the Carroll County Public Library on Wednesday evening, Oct. 10, to talk about the future of the town’s former high school.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, hosted the meeting, which featured Jonathan Favorite — a member of the Governor’s Emergency Management Advisory Council — to discuss NextGen911, State Del. Haven Shoemaker, members of the Hampstead Town Council and local residents bouncing ideas off of each other.


“We have two years left of North Carroll High School before we have to make a decision on things. The Board of [County] Commissioners gave it three years, and I have a list of issues I want to resolve with that building,” Weaver said.

“We have 200,000 square feet that is the upper part of the building that we need to be able to do something with. We need a revenue source to keep it open. We have the athletic facilities being used, the field open for use, the training academy for the police is in the lower part of that, and they are taking care of the building.”


The school was originally closed, along with two other county schools, at the end of the 2015-2016 school year because of declining enrollment rates countywide.

It’s been a battle ever since, with a number of proposed plans and ideas that have ranged from demolition to rezoning.

Plenty of ideas have been bandied about for possible uses for the former North Carroll High School building. Commissioner Richard Weaver, who represents the Hampstead area, might’ve come up with the best one we’ve heard to date, but it’s one that would take a lot of support from the state to move

On the agenda Wednesday, Weaver listed various potentials for the school that have been discussed recently — including the charter school Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, recommended earlier this summer and a NextGen911 training facility.

Weaver said a charter school would require a committee to dedicate countless hours to organize and, although he isn’t writing the possibility off, he thinks the new 911 dispatcher training facility would be more plausible.


“This is a program that’s really gonna take some money from the county to keep going, the state, but it’s universal across the board, and I think we have something like $120 million [in federal funding] coming in on that one to help with it,” he said.

“A training center for the state [could go] right here. We have the space. People could send people to come in and train for this next-level training. Even if we had to do a dormitory-type housing there for few weeks or a year. We don’t know yet.”

Favorite explained the concept to the group.

“Obviously with cellphones, texting, videos, Verizon is going to no longer support the existing technology. You have to be able to handle those things. You text when you see an accident, a video of an emergency or a fire or something — that's going to put a lot of pressure on the dispatchers who now handle those calls,” he said.

“[Currently] you hear someone describing something, you interface with the police. Now they’re going to have to be able to understand texts and video — and how do you not only handle that information and get that effectively to first responders, but also the side of that for the dispatcher, mentally, to be able to handle that. You hear things on the phone, but what happens when you can see it?

“Across the state, every jurisdiction in the state of Maryland is going to have to replace their existing 911 system at some point,” he said.

He also said, though, there is a large turnover in that career because pay is low and it is very stressful — and that there is a 25 percent vacancy in most 911 facilities.

“Because the pay is low, is there any way to raise the salaries?” asked one resident, William Farrell. “If the money’s not there, people are going to go somewhere else.”

The possibility of a charter school in the former North Carroll High School building — a plan that was proposed July 30 — continues to be contemplated by county leaders and community members alike, with steps beginning to be taken, though numerous questions still remain.

Weaver said that’s because the job isn’t publicized, but that if it were, it could perhaps be a career choice for locals or an entry-level position leading to something else in the field.

Another resident, Gary Bauer, wanted to know how active the system is in the community — because that is a better indicator of what fatigues workers.

“That’s what burns people out,” he said. “If you work in a metropolitan area, doing all these calls per day, you're working 12-hour days — it takes a lot out of people.”

Diane Barrett said it could be a good idea to coordinate something with the Board of Education to make North Carroll a combined 911 magnet school for law enforcement and magnet school for security.

“Let’s keep it in the school system,” she said. “Let’s get some more high school kids into that building.”

And the ideas kept rolling.

One resident said it could be a location where people test out other types of training, like the digital creation of apps.

Dennis Mitchell said it could be a great Reserve Officers' Training Corps central location as the offerings are slim for county residents interesting in ROTC.

“Now the school board would have to buy into it,” Weaver said. “One advantage is we have the Sheriff’s Office there. I’ll pursue it to see where we can go with it. I told you I’m open for ideas.”

Attendees also mentioned the use of the school’s auditorium by the Carroll Arts Center and a summer camp hosted by Encore Community Music Associates, as well as moving forward with turf fields.

A clipboard was passed around the room where residents could sign up for committees that interested them so they could stay involved in the future of the closed high school.

“[The building] needs a roof and some other things in the future, but it is a solid building, solid as a rock, and it does have a fallout shelter underneath,” Weaver said.

“Some good ideas are coming out here tonight. I’m taking notes, maybe I can get a staff person on it. If we look long enough, we are going to stumble on something.”

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