Charles Carroll future discussed, still no decisions made

Discussions among the Board of County Commissioners about what may become of the Charles Carroll Elementary School building continued this week, though no decisions were made on its future despite the county budget season rapidly approaching.

Commissioners bounced around ideas, from previously discussed plans to a modified option brought forth Thursday, to other thoughts in the hopes of spending less money. They also requested getting a baseline figure of how much money could be available for future projects from Ted Zaleski, director of the Department of Management and Budget.


Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said as they make decisions, it's important to continue to listen to the community there and the needs they have. But, moving forward, it's "critically important" that they do what's the most "financially viable," said Wantz, who represents the area where Charles Carroll is located.

Scott Moser, deputy director of the county's planning department, came back this week with a modified plan similar to Wantz's idea, that would have two separate outdoor entrances and eliminate the need for an elevator. The building would still need to be cleaned up, have its electrical and HVAC systems updated and its ceiling and roof replaced.

"Everything's old and not working there," Moser said.

Even still, that would cost $2.8 million. Project A, with the new facility, would come in at $3.5 million. Project B, with renovations to the most recent addition, would come in a bit over $4 million.

Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, said there are a couple of lingering issues and the commissioners need to provide direction on those.

"I think we need to come up with a dollar amount maybe and consult with the budget department," he said.

The commissioners need to determine what to do with Charles Carroll, North Carroll High School, the State's Attorney's Office and the Sheriff's Office, he said. Carroll County Board of Education members voted 4-1 in December 2015 to approve Superintendent Stephen Guthrie's recommendation to shutter North Carroll High, and New Windsor Middle and Charles Carroll Elementary schools at the end of the 2015-16 school year.

There have been discussions in recent years about both the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office and the Carroll County Sheriff's Office needing space to expand from their locations on Court Street in Westminster.

But, Howard said, he'd hate to spend $10 million to $15 million in trying to solve these problems.

Wantz said he's concerned that the commissioners are up against time and need to start making some decisions. Commissioners are briefed on the Fiscal Year 2018 budget next week, he said.

"I think we gotta do it sooner rather than later," he added.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said it doesn't make sense to try to salvage the old building, because with slightly more money, they get a facility that's going to last.

"My opinion is option A — with the new building — is the way to go," he said.


Looking into the future, if they try to use the old facility, they'll have to be making repairs, Frazier said. If they put in the money now, they'll have a facility that is good over time.

Howard suggested creating a community meeting space and keeping the ball fields. Perhaps down the road, he said, they could build a gym as a part of a second phase.

"We're going to get to $10 million pretty quickly," if they're spending $2 million to $3 million on each project, he said.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, brought up the idea of trying to have an organization like the YMCA invest in a building, and the county could pay a yearly subsidy.

While the commissioners considered trying to put a possible number on the project, the board eventually agreed to have Zaleski come back with how much money there is for possible projects before deciding on a percentage to set aside.

Zaleski agreed to look into the number, though cautioned about trying to use that number when figuring out the projects.

"You just need to recognize that you can't really look at that by itself," he said.