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Paving the way for growth

School construction, road repairs are priorities

School construction, road repairs are priorities

January 04, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

tarar@herald-mail.com

School construction projects and keeping roads in shape likely will top this year's list of priorities for Washington County.

County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioner John C. Munson said Monday the county plans to stay on track with its pavement management program, part of a plan to spend $5 million a year for the next five years on road improvements.

Munson said the county has a computerized system in place which tracks the condition of roads and determines the order in which they need to be fixed.

So far this fiscal year, which began July 1, 2005, the county has repaired more than 40 miles of roads, Munson said.

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He said the county has been focusing on roads in growth areas near municipalities, but that he thinks the focus should switch to roads "out in the boondocks."

"A lot of them are in really bad shape, and they need work," Munson said.

He pointed to Trovinger Mill Road near Hagerstown and roads in southern Washington County as needing repairs.

County staff members will present the commissioners with a new list of road improvements for fiscal year 2007 this spring, Munson said. Fiscal year 2007 begins July 1.

Snook said getting schools repaired or built will be a major focus in the county this year.

The Washington County Board of Education is in the process of building a new Maugansville Elementary School, which will replace the existing school.

A study is underway that will determine whether to renovate Pangborn Elementary School or build a new school on the property, Snook said. The study should be completed in two or three months, he said.

A proposed Westfields Elementary School is in the preliminary design stage, Snook said.

The school is proposed to be built in the Westfields Development along Sharpsburg Pike south of Hagerstown.

The county, which has halted the development, is in the midst of a legal battle with developer Westfields Development LLC of Frederick, Md.

Westfields sued the county in October for $7.5 million and other damages, saying the county has acted in an "arbitrary, capricious, unjustified and discriminatory" manner by delaying the project.

The developer plans to build 773 single-family and semi-detached housing units on 443 acres south of Saint James Village.

County officials have said they put the development on hold months ago because there is no room in area schools to handle enrollment increases.

Snook said he expects residential growth to continue this year, but not to the extent it has been growing. That mainly is because of limitations with water, sewer and school capacities, Snook said.

"I would say that we will have continued growth but not at the same pace that we had in the last two years."

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said growth likely will slow in areas in the county that are connected to the City of Hagerstown's sewer system, which has limited capacity.

In addition to roads and schools projects, Wivell said the commissioners probably will work on creating a program to compensate landowners for a possible loss in equity as a result of the county's rural rezoning plan.

The rezoning plan, part of the Comprehensive Plan, limits the number of homes allowed in rural areas. Landowners have argued that their equity would decrease because the development potential of their land would be limited.

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