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Harford's Glassman seeks new state funding initiatives for Havre de Grace High School project

A schematic view of the proposed new Havre de Grace High and Middle School, as released by Harford County Public Schools in 2014. Harford County Executive Barry Glassman says he will seek more help from Annapolis to build the project, which he says the county can't afford to do on its own.
A schematic view of the proposed new Havre de Grace High and Middle School, as released by Harford County Public Schools in 2014. Harford County Executive Barry Glassman says he will seek more help from Annapolis to build the project, which he says the county can't afford to do on its own. (Curtesy of Karen Burlingame, Grimm & Parker Architects / Baltimore Sun)

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman is making funding for a new Havre de Grace High School one of his top requests to state legislators for the upcoming General Assembly session, which starts Jan. 13.

Glassman veered away from major building projects in his first year in office, focusing on supporting employees and teachers instead, but that philosophy has been challenged as Havre de Grace residents and community leaders continue to push for a replacement of the 60-year-old building.

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In a November meeting with legislators representing Harford County, Glassman urged them to support increased funding for school construction.

Glassman noted the new combination High and Middle School, which his predecessor David Craig had prioritized, could be built today, but the county would not be able to secure state reimbursement in a sufficient amount.

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The concept of a joint middle and high school could only be reimbursed for about $22 million, out of $100 million, under current formulas, Glassman said in his memo to the legislators.

He asked the delegates and senators to support the comptroller's efforts to expand reimbursement for schools built under federal standards, or by private developers, according to the memo.

In an early December interview, where he talked about his first year in office, Glassman also said there are ways the state can relax some existing regulations that would in turn enable the county to undertake the Havre de Grace project.

In that interview, the county executive said he is committed to starting construction on the new school before his term ends in late 2018; however, he also declared he would not put the county in the position of having to raise taxes to do the project.

Glassman, who attended both Havre de Grace High and Middle schools, said he has been reviewing school projects in other counties for fresh ideas on cost-effective ways to build, at a time when school buildings are typically considered to be outdated within 40 or 50 years.

That also could mean including a vocational education component in the Havre de Grace school or using innovative construction techniques that aren't necessarily as costly as what is now required by state education standards, he said.

Such changes would not lead to a lowering of construction standards, he said, but might mean a school would look more like an office building than a traditional school.

He also said counties should be allowed to work out lease/purchase deals with private developers to construct schools, similar to how the Harford County Board of Education built its headquarters in Bel Air.

"The Administration is working with the Board of Education to explore any of these opportunities which may allow us to be a pilot to fund school construction in a unique manner, subject to Board approval," Glassman wrote in the memo.

School buses

Another major school priority is a $2 million request by the Board of Education to replace aging school buses, Glassman noted.

School buses are allowed to be operated for up to 12 years and need state approval beyond that, according to a memo from Joe Licata, chief of administration for Harford County Public Schools.

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The school system received approval to extend the expired buses for a 14th year, according to the memo.

Glassman said he expects a similar request for replacement buses to come up again for the 2017 legislative session.

State's attorney salary

Glassman's legislative requests also include a pay increase for longtime State's Attorney Joe Cassilly, more funding for anti-heroin outreach and potentially an additional judge.

A bill to raise the state's attorney's base salary from $98,500 to $125,000 from 2014 to 2016 and up to $130,000 in 2017 failed to get passed by the General Assembly two years ago.

Glassman supported the pay increase while he was a state senator and is urging legislators to consider it again.

Glassman is also supporting a potential sixth judge for the Circuit Court to and noted in his memo he has been working with Sen. Wayne Norman and Del. Teresa Riley on funding issues. The county would have to find space for a new judge.

Glassman is continuing his focus on the county's heroin epidemic by asking legislators do help identify more grant funds to use locally, not just for enforcement, but for prevention and treatment.

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