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Coalition unhappy over delay in Towson High renovations School officials wait for revised plans


The long-awaited renovation of Towson High School has been marred by delays ranging from high bids to hiring a construction manager -- and community leaders want to know why.

"It's keeping the school in limbo," said Justin King, chairman of the Coalition Committee for the Renovation of Towson High. "People don't know what's going on."

It took years for money to be appropriated for the modernization, and construction should have started by now at Towson High, which was built in 1949 and is one of Baltimore County's oldest high schools.

The project stalled in October when the lowest bids came in $2 million to $4 million over the $14.6 million in state and county funds set aside for the renovation. The school system then decided to hire an outside construction manager to oversee the renovation, the first time it has ever done so for a large-scale project.

"We felt like we needed a relationship with the subcontractors," said Faith Hermann, executive director of facilities for the school system. "We'll see how it works."

But the company, Wohlsen Construction Co. of Lancaster, Pa., wasn't hired until Jan. 11, again postponing the start of renovations.

"I don't understand why the school system hasn't moved more aggressively to pursue this," said Steve Lafferty, a coalition member. "It's not just for the students in school now, but for those coming out of middle school."

Ms. Hermann says the project still will meet the original completion date of September 1998. But the project is demanding because of the way it is to be done -- in phases, while the 1,000-student school remains open.

Now, school officials -- and the renovation committee -- are waiting for Wohlsen's revised plans, expected this month.

Despite Ms. Hermann's assurances, Mr. King wants to make sure the revised plans take care of problems at the aging school, which has inadequate heating, drafty windows, an outdated electrical system and a leaky roof.

"It is in a horrendous state of disrepair," he said. "You can only put a Band-Aid on so many times. If we need more money, we will go back to the county executive and plead our case for additional funds."

The coalition committee also is concerned about the possible transfer of the school's chief custodian, Arnold Dieter. He should be available, Mr. King said, "now and through construction. He keeps things running and is part of the renovation team."

Ms. Hermann said Mr. Dieter has requested and received a promotion that could move him to the east side. Now, however, she is considering keeping him based at Towson High in his new position of overseeing mechanical operations at eight schools.

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