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School officials seek $132 million over 5 years for projects

Carroll school officials spent more than three hours yesterday detailing $132 million worth of projects to the county Planning Commission that they would like to see financed over the next five years.

The requests for fiscal 1995 include $10.2 million from the county and $12 million from the state.

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School officials said their priorities are a new middle school on Oklahoma Road, renovation and expansion of Taneytown and Elmer Wolfe elementary schools, and several smaller projects to meet changing curriculum demands.

The Planning Commission began reviewing capital projects Tuesday to decide what it believes the county can afford to build. Carroll agencies have requested $67 million for capital projects in fiscal 1995, which begins July 1.

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The $67 million request is 105 percent higher than the capital budget approved for the current fiscal year. The county will spend $32.7 million in fiscal 1994, which ends June 30.

Yesterday's sessions included talks with agency heads and other officials from the Office of Economic Development, public libraries, the Bureau of Aging, the Bureau of Building Construction and the Humane Society.

The Planning Commission will meet again tomorrow to review utility, road and bridge projects, among others. The commission must recommend to the county commissioners by Dec. 10 which projects should be financed.

The schools request includes $300,000 for air conditioning at Mount Airy Elementary School, $1 million to buy property, $500,000 for Taneytown Elementary, $240,000 for moving portable classrooms and nearly $600,000 to make school buildings accessible to the handicapped.

"These come up every year, and the situation's not getting any better," said Lou J. Pecoraro of Taylorsville, a Planning Commission member and retired principal. "If the state would reimburse us, we wouldn't be in bad shape."

The state doesn't pay some reforestation, storm water management and other costs that are essential to the projects, said Lester Surber, supervisor of school facilities.

Carroll school officials still are trying to get state reimbursement for more than $2.5 million for Piney Ridge Elementary, which opened in 1991.

This year, Piney Ridge is at capacity. School officials hope to build a new elementary school in southeastern Carroll within five years.

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Commission member Dennis Bowman asked whether Carroll schools were considering the year-round use of school buildings that Gov. William Donald Schaefer has suggested. The idea would have students attending school no more than the 180 days they attend now, but doing it in shifts so the buildings always are in use.

"That is being studied, but not in Carroll County," said Vernon Smith, director of school support services.

Mr. Bowen said the county must look at ways to keep up with the growing school enrollment, perhaps through year-round building use or slowing the growth rate until schools can be built to meet demands.

Public libraries

Director Linda Mielke said the library's first priority is expanding the Eldersburg branch. The 15,000-square-foot building was built 10 years ago and is the county's second-busiest branch, behind the Westminster branch.

Ms. Mielke proposed adding 5,000 square feet to the building and taking over 5,000 square feet occupied by the county Health Department. The project would cost about $1.7 million.

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Library officials also want $1.7 million to build a New Windsor-Union Bridge branch in fiscal 1996; and $163,600 to rent space for a Sandymount branch in fiscal 1995.

Economic development

Planning Commission members seemed receptive to spending $300,000 to purchase the Shriver Building in Westminster for a combined office of tourism and economic development.

The county has been looking for combined space since the offices merged this summer. An additional $14,300 would be spent on renovations, according to the request.

William E. Jenne, county economic development administrator, said he recommended buying the 4,170-square-foot building on Railroad Avenue because it is easily accessible and visible from Route 140.

The building originally housed corporate offices for the Shriver family's canning company, which, at its height, farmed about 1,000 acres in Carroll. The building's history reflects the influence of commerce in Carroll and is a potential tourist site, Mr. Jenne said.

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Commission members said the county commissioners might be more receptive to the idea if Mr. Jenne could show that the money saved by combining the two offices would cover the cost of the building.

"If you can show a payback over five or six years, that would be an advantage," said Planning Commission member Zeno Fisher.

Humane Society

An addition to the Humane Society at 2517 Littlestown Pike is needed, director Nicky Ratliff said. The facility needs a larger quarantine area for dogs, more kennels for stray dogs, a larger euthanasia room and more storage space for food and equipment. That would cost $386,700.

County offices

Thomas J. Rio, the Building Construction Bureau chief, requested $717,200 to renovate county office buildings, including the courthouse annex and the law library.

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He also proposed building a 125,000-square-foot building to replace three buildings that now house county offices. The $28.4 million project would be built after the year 2000, he said.

Bureau of Aging

The Bureau of Aging is seeking $700,000 in county bond money in fiscal 1995 to furnish the new Westminster Senior Citizens' Center to be built on South Center Street.

Planning Commission member Dennis Bowman said he thought the amount seemed steep. He said schools use a formula to calculate the cost of furnishing new buildings, and he thought such a formula would yield a figure closer to $350,000 for the senior center.

Jolene Sullivan, director of the Department of Citizen Services, said the senior center's needs differ from those of a school. The planned senior center would house the bureau's offices and require office furniture, she said. The center also would need cafeteria furnishings and other equipment, such as kilns and shelves for ceramics classes.

The bureau also plans to ask for $334,500 in county bond money in fiscal 1997 for a 2,200-square-foot expansion of the Taneytown Senior Citizens' Center. Ms. Sullivan said the county designed the center to allow future expansion. The walls and roof of the new section are in place, she said. Removal of a wall and finishing work is all that will be needed to make the area usable.

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Ms. Sullivan also requested $105,000 for fiscal 1999 to buy land for the eventual construction of a larger building for the North Carroll Senior Citizens' Center.

When the current center opened in 1989, it had 125 members. Now it has "well over 500," Ms. Sullivan said. "When we built North Carroll it really was too small for our needs."

The 5,000-square-foot center is in the North Carroll branch library.

Ms. Sullivan said the center cannot be expanded on the site without eliminating parking space, unless the library moves.


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