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Committee considers Board of Ed relocation

February 21, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

A committee studying the possible relocation to downtown of the Washington County Board of Education offices met for the first time Wednesday, but a possible location was not discussed.

According to School Board President Paul Bailey, the meeting at Hagerstown City Hall did not result in any recommendations.

The group discussed how the idea evolved into a proposal. "We talked about how we got to where we are now," Bailey said.

Last August, State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, sent Gov. Parris Glendening a letter asking him to support the move, saying it would help revitalize downtown.

"Funding remains the major obstacle to moving this project forward," he wrote.

The governor asked the Department of Budget and Management to review Munson's request. On Jan. 24, a budget analyst wrote County Administrator Rodney Shoop asking for a description of the project as well as its costs, schedule and funding sources.

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Shoop asked six officials representing the city, county and School Board to serve on an ad hoc committee.

They include: Bailey, Executive Director of Support Services William McKinley, Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission Assistant Director Timothy Troxell, City Zoning Administrator Debbie Everhart, City Planner Rick Kautz and City Attorney Bruce Zimmerman.

Funding may be the project's major obstacle. Although the state is considering a $4.25 million contribution, the project requires other grants or funding sources.

"I'm just not certain as to where the money's going to come from," Bailey said.

Like other School Board members, he opposes spending money to build administrative offices if it can be spent on schools. "My priority is the school system. If there is any interference with that, I would be opposed to such a move," he said.

Shoop has said any funding would not compete with other renovation projects.

School Board members expressed various concerns about relocation, such as the need for adequate parking, space and security. "I can't imagine downtown having the necessary facilities," said board member Mary Wilfong.

"If it had everything we needed, it would be no problem for me," she said.

Board members also complained they were not included in discussions sooner. "This has been in the works for months and no one wanted to get us involved," said board member Herbert Jr. Hardin.

Munson said moving the board's offices downtown has been discussed for years.

"I suspect my letter just brought the issue to the surface," he said.

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