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Building problems have been many

May 15, 2004|By LAURA ERNDE

Eight months after it opened, the Western Maryland Children's Center only houses half the number of youths it was built for because of lingering deficiencies with the heat and hot water systems.

Building problems, dating back to before the center opened in September, have plagued the $8 million center, said Bob McElvie, program administrator at the center.

McElvie and the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services declined to talk about specifics because the matter has been referred to lawyers.

A spokesman for Whiting-Turner of Baltimore, which was hired as the state's general contractor, did not return several phone calls made between May 7 and Thursday.

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Whiting-Turner is the same contractor that built the Baltimore Ravens' stadium and is working on the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

On that job, the contractor has been professional and organized, Hagerstown City Engineer Rodney Tissue said.

"I've been very impressed with them," he said.

Because of problems during construction, the children's center's opening was delayed by a year.

Issues still are being resolved and McElvie said he didn't know when the center would be able to accommodate its full capacity of 24 youths.

When it's fully open, the center will be able to house girls as well as boys because it has separate housing pods, he said.

Girls now are sent to the Alfred D. Noyes Children's Center in Rockville, Md., he said.

Hours before a tour last week by The Herald-Mail, yet another crisis surfaced. Contractors working to correct the building problems created dust that permeated part of the building.

Youths were sent outside while the mess quickly was cleaned up using exhaust fans.

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