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City OKs deal for funding of new school

August 24, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

The City of Hagerstown will retain ownership of the historic former Henry's Theater, but the Washington County Board of Education will be responsible for everything else at a downtown school of the arts planned for the site.

That understanding was formalized in an agreement the City Council approved Tuesday by a 5-0 vote, said Roger Giles, the school system's director of development.

According to the agreement between the city and the schools, funding from a state bond issue for the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts will flow through the city, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.

Vincent Groh donated the former Henry's Theater to the city in 2003. The school, which will offer courses in visual arts, music, theater and dance, is named after his late wife.

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According to Giles, the school, which the system plans to open in 2008, will accommodate about 300 high school students. Besides the state's $400,000 bond, $20,000 in grants and $25,000 from the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce will go toward the cost of planning and design for the school, Giles said.

The school could cost $8.5 million to $9 million, Giles said. The design cost is about $500,000, he said.

A financing plan for the project could be completed by the beginning of next year, allowing work to proceed in the spring, Giles said. The plan could include funding sources such as historic tax credits, he said.

In July, Cho Benn Holback + Associates, the Baltimore architectural firm handling the project, learned it received a $1.4 million state tax credit for the school.

Both Giles and City Comprehensive Planner Stuart W. Bass said they believe a lease between the city and the school system for the South Potomac Street property is in the works.

"The appropriate people are reviewing that as we speak," Bass said before Tuesday's meeting.

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