Around 50 people turned out to the Pleasant Valley volunteer fire company Tuesday evening, Oct. 16, to discuss the future community center planned for the site of the former Charles Carroll Elementary School.
Carroll County Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1; Chief of the Carroll County Bureau of Building Construction Eric Burdine and other county staff, along with Lance Tarbell from Mimar Architects and Engineers Inc., were on hand to present conceptual drawings of the proposed Charles Carroll Community Center and solicit feedback from the community to advance the design process.
“Community involvement is extremely important,” Burdine said. “We want to make sure we build you something that will be utilized for years to come.”
Charles Carroll Elementary School was closed at the end of the 2015-2016 school year and demolished in April, leaving the Silver Run community without a community focal point. The Charles Carroll Community Center as currently envisioned would provide a gym, multipurpose rooms and a kitchenette and have a maximum capacity of around 400 people, according to Tarbell.
The $3.5 million project is not expected to break ground until fall of 2019, and Wantz told the crowd that all ideas would be written down and considered to help finalize the design, from wish list add-ons to questioning the placement of doors and corridors.
“These are the kinds of things these two guys need to hear tonight as they get ready to put the pencil to the paper,” Wantz said, nodding at Burdine and Tarbell.
While Tuesday was an open community meeting, there has also been an 18-member Silver Run advisory group meeting, at Wantz’s behest, for about a year to discuss the community center project, and Burdine presented some of the “wish list” items that had been discussed to be added to the existing plans — and the estimated price tags.
“The first request was a commercial kitchen,” Burdine said. “It’s a lot of equipment. You would have a cook top, oven, fryers; like what you would find in a restaurant kitchen. The price we came up with for that was $475,000 to add that to the building.”
A “warming kitchen,” meanwhile, one that simply used steam tables to keep food cooked elsewhere warm, would come to an estimated $350,000, according to Burdine.
“I am not in favor of a commercial kitchen. I just think it opens up the door to a lot of extra heartache,” Wantz said, a sentiment echoed by members of the crowd. “What I would like to see is an enhanced kitchenette, because I think it’s important for the rec councils or the scout troops to come in and do the chili dogs or whatever.”
Other suggestions include a fitness center, estimated at $290,000, and a technology room, an estimated $102,000, according to Burdine.
“All of these estimates assume we are adding square footage to the building,” he said, noting that elements that could be added to the existing floor plan could be added for less.
Of those add-ons, it was the technology room that seemed the most popular, given the positive response to one woman’s comment.
“There are children in this community who can’t do their homework,” she said. “For the children in this community, that technology room is the most important thing in that building.”
Exactly what that room should be like was a point of discussion.
Soraya Dougherty, of Silver Run, liked the idea of having printers and a fax machine, but suggested that it might be better as a bring-your-own-device space, rather than a computer lab filled with desktop computers.
“I personally don’t think we should provide computers because of the cost of keeping the computers up and people not respecting the computers,” she said.
Alice Buckner, also of Silver Run, but a teacher in Baltimore County Public Schools, suggested that in her experience, in order to enable children to do homework, there would need to be some permanent computers involved.
“I just want to caution that while most people have portable laptops, I work in a school system where half my kids do not, and half my kids do,” she said. “I think there have to be at least four to five computers available.”
“There is Wi-Fi in the building, there is nothing saying you can’t have students using other parts of the building to have access for internet,” Tarbell added.
Other community questions involved whether well and septic were sufficient — “yes,” per Wantz — if solar power would be appropriate — “not initially, but possibly down the road” — and if the community center could become a Carroll County Public Library book drop.
“I have entered into a dialogue with the library system,” Wantz said. “The library would love to have a satellite up there.”
Wantz also verified that the new center would be used as a polling place as Charles Carroll Elementary School once was.
“We are making sure the outlets are in place,” he said. “The head of our election board emailed me and wanted a copy of these conceptual plans, so they are in it as well.”
For members of the community that could not be there Tuesday evening, Wantz said they may call the Carroll County Department of Planning with ideas or questions, at 410-386-5145.
“I am excited about the fact that the community wants to be involved in this,” he said. “These folks deserve this building.”