Hopes that a long-awaited, 400-seat addition at Glenelg High School will be ready for use late next year were dealt a blow by a request this week for a new state hearing on a wastewater treatment plant vital to the project, school officials said.
Howard school Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin and Chief Operating Officer Raymond Brown said a request for another Maryland Department of the Environment hearing on the disputed wastewater treatment plant for the school could delay completion of the addition until April or August 2007.
The state issued a preliminary approval for the project last month, but residents who live near Glenelg were allowed to request another hearing. That request was filed Monday, the deadline for filing such an appeal.
Schools, like homes in the western county, have no public water or sewer service, depending on septic systems and wells or small wastewater plants. Disputes over how to fix Glenelg's marginal septic system have delayed the addition for four years. Some residents fear the discharge from the proposed plant could hurt their drinking water.
Cousin said he hopes the new classrooms will be ready in spring 2007, and since the state found no reason to refuse permission for the plant, he does not expect new environmental problem to arise.
Diane Mikulis, a school board member who lives in the western county, said she is getting e-mail from frustrated parents who want the new science labs and classrooms completed.
"The parents are very frustrated," she said. Glenelg is 27 percent over capacity this year with 1,273 students.
The area's county councilman is also upset.
"I think it would be a catastrophe if they held it any longer," said Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a western county Republican.
"People out there should visit those people [on the petition] and ask them to withdraw it. At this point, all they're doing is delaying," he said.
The request was filed by 99 people. Because only those adversely affected by the plant may contest it at a new hearing, state officials are seeking an opinion from the state attorney general on whether the people listed have standing in the case. Cousin said at least three or four appear to have standing because they likely live within one-quarter mile of Glenelg, the county's western-most high school.
School officials also told the County Council at a meeting this week that Wednesday is the state Department of the Environment deadline for public requests for a hearing on a replacement school for Bushy Park Elementary, which also uses a septic system for wastewater. Bushy Park needs to be under construction by April next year to stay on schedule, Brown said. Hearings could delay that six to nine months.
The $27 million project is three months behind schedule for a 2007 opening because MDE is requiring an ultraviolet sterilization system for the wastewater treatment plant, which would add up to $100,000 to the cost.
Brown and Cousin said they hope no hearing will be needed for Bushy Park. The county is proposing to build a larger school next to the current building, using parkland along Route 97.