New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. showed the Carroll County Commissioners around town yesterday. The tour was both convivial and purposeful.
"Instead of talking, the town is small enough to go out and see," Mr. Gullo said. "This is our opportunity to show the commissioners what we need and let them see where the county can assist us the most."
Mr. Gullo said he hoped the commissioners would see that the town needs a community center, better and bigger space for its Fire Department, an accessible Town Hall with offices, a place for seniors to meet and youth to play.
What New Windsor needs most is already in town. One building -- the old middle school -- could fill all those needs, once it becomes available. "The building is the touchstone to all we want to do," the mayor said.
The aging three-story brick building, once the high school many town residents attended years ago, could be a senior and a youth center, a library and the hub for the community, which now numbers fewer than 1,000 residents. "We want you to know what we can do with this building," the mayor said.
Mr. Gullo used the annual meeting with county officials to "cultivate advocacy for our cause."
In the fall, a new middle school will open next door on Green Valley Road. The old building will remain in use for Elmer Wolfe Elementary students, while the county builds a new school for them in neighboring Union Bridge. Those children may be in the middle school building for two years.
After that, the town wants use of the building. While the elementary children are temporarily in the school, the town could plan its options for the space.
"New Windsor will soon double in size, but there is no place for people to gather," the mayor said. "We need to keep this building, which is part of our history."
The town would assume all responsibility for maintenance of the site and might rent retail space to help pay the costs of upkeep. The need for more business exists, the mayor said. New Windsor's only pharmacy lost its lease a year ago and moved from the town.
The mayor asked for a commitment from the county within a year. Then, with at least another year until the building is vacated, the town would have time to plan.
"We want to put our plans together before you give it to us," the mayor said. "We have great ideas, but no incentive to go out and get an architect."
The town Fire Department, which the commissioners saw is rapidly outgrowing its High Street headquarters, would also like to build on the land surrounding the school.
"You wouldn't have to pay for land for a new Fire Department," the mayor said. "Our volunteers would have better and safer access to Route 75 and to Main Street from this site."
Mr. Gullo said his worst fear is that the county will declare the building surplus and use it for storage.
Town residents want to preserve and use it for so much more, he said.
"We have to have a time line," the mayor said. "If not, we'll have to make other plans."
The commissioners remained noncommittal yesterday, but said they would consider the town's request.
During the tour, the mayor pointed out various developments, which will eventually add 375 homes to the 400 existing residences.
"We wanted to show everybody what is going on," the mayor said. "Go home and think about what you can do for us."