Carroll County employees working on the proposed transitional housing project near the county's airport may be making a good idea even better.
The county has proposed building a "hamlet" of housing for homeless families from five residences that must be moved out of the flight path of the county airport's extended runway.
Under the current plan, these houses would be moved several hundred feet to a five-acre site that is bounded by Littlestown Pike, Kriders Church Road, the Carroll County Association of Retarded Citizen's sheltered workshop and Feeser's Market.
The "hamlet" would include play lots, gardens and a community center that would contain offices and classrooms for the residents.
The county's Office of Citizen Services, which is spearheading the project, is now looking into the possibility of building new homes instead of recycling the existing ones.
County officials are concerned that moving the houses -- which are all at least 30 years old -- may create structural problems that would be very expensive to repair.
In addition to avoiding problems, construction of new buildings would give the county more design flexibility and better control over costs. The county also might be able to construct more units from the new townhouses than they could get by dividing the existing homes into apartments.
To her credit, Jolene Sullivan, director of the Office of Citizen Services, said the county is carefully reviewing its existing plans. She and other officials have examined transitional housing projects in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties before they make a decision whether to use new construction.
Given the tight budget for the project, the county can't afford to make mistakes that might increase its cost.
Even though the county received a $674,000 loan from the state Department of Housing and Community Development (which will be forgiven if the houses are still in public use in 15 years) and was given the land for the hamlet, there isn't much other money available.
The county should be commended for trying to squeeze out as many living units as possible to help house Carroll residents who find themselves in desperate straits.