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Washington County schools' maintenance team finds a home

April 17, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Washington County Public Schools plans to move its department of maintenance and operations to a former used car lot.

The school system has reached an agreement of sale to buy the now vacant Southern Toy Store, at 701 Frederick St., in Hagerstown, from Trend VI LLC. The company owns the property, which consists of 2.02 acres, and a 15,982-square-foot building.

The property is within walking distance from the school system's central office at 820 Commonwealth Ave.

The school system will purchase the property for $1.1 million, and Assistant Superintendent for School Operations Boyd Michael estimates that an additional $110,000 will be spent on remodeling and another $35,000 will be spent on closing costs.

The Washington County Board of Education approved the purchase Tuesday 6-0, with Board Member Bernadette M. Wagner absent.

"The maintenance and operations staff will have ample office and work space, along with a large storage facility, and the move will free up additional parking at the central office site and reduce the need for additional bus parking at other locations," Michael said.

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Michael estimated that 90 parking spaces would be vacated when the maintenance and operations department moves to the new building, leaving additional space for bus parking and limiting the need for off-site bus parking.

Board Member William H. Staley said the purchase is the "answer to a lot of problems," including the need for more bus parking and additional central office space.

The need for a planned Eastern Primary bus depot, which was expected to cost about $350,000, also is eliminated by the purchase.

Officials said the appraised value of the property is $2.025 million. About $480,000 already had been budgeted for the construction of a maintenance building at the Commonwealth Avenue property.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the purchase is an example of adaptive reuse, which can be more cost-effective than building a new facility.

"To build some things from the ground up, some costs can be prohibitive," she said. "We have been looking where there is space available at commercial buildings. Right now, there is quite a bit available to adapt to our needs."

That amount now will go to the Frederick Street purchase, along with the $130,000 budgeted for expansion of the bus lot onto City of Hagerstown property near the central office. Just more than $600,000 will be used from the current operating budget adjustments and savings that will not impact instruction.

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