City Council supports downtown arts school

March 28, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - The Hagerstown City Council supports a funding plan for the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts that would have students enrolled as early as 2008, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said.

"I'm not sure how much more we can say about the support of this body for this project," he said. "Yes. Whatever we can do to help out with this project ... it has to be done."

The council met with the Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday to discuss the funding partnership with the Maryland Economic Development Corp. The plan, approved by the board during a March 20 business meeting, calls in part for MEDCO to finance the $9 million project with bonds that the school system would pay back at a 5 percent interest rate.

A MEDCO partnership will require the City of Hagerstown, which owns the former Henry's Theater on South Potomac Street, to lease the facility to a local nonprofit corporation that would serve as the facility owner/lessor, officials have said. Board members have mentioned a possible partnership with the Community Foundation of Washington County.


The high school will enroll about 300 students who will use the University System of Maryland building for their academic courses. The Washington County Free Library will be the school's library.

"This will be a very active place in downtown Hagerstown," said Roger Giles, director of system development for Washington County Public Schools.

School system Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said that renovations to the building must begin this summer in order to meet a 2008 opening date and also to qualify for about $1.4 million in historic tax credits.

Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer asked board members whether students would be required to pay tuition to attend the school.

"For students who live within the county, it will be just another high school," Giles said. "(Students) will apply to attend .... If seats are remaining after county students are admitted, (we will) consider out of county."

The council said it will put in writing its support for the school, and Board President Roxanne R. Ober asked the council to support the facility publicly and privately and also with additional funding.

"(We would like to) work with you to see if there is alternative financing the city would help with that the school system can't take advantage of," she said.

Know more in 30 seconds

The issue: The Washington County Board of Education approved a partnership with the Maryland Economic Development Corp. to fund the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, in part financing the $9 million project with bonds that the school system would pay back at a 5 percent interest rate.

What's new: The Board of Education met Tuesday with Hagerstown City Council to discuss the funding plan. Council members said they supported the project.

What's next: A lease that exists between the school system and the City of Hagerstown needs some tweaking. A nonprofit organization needs to be identified as the lessor of the building in order to qualify for certain grants and credits.

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