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Washington Co. school board mixed on building's worth

August 24, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE
  • The former Job Development Center on Federal Lookout Road near Smithsburg once provided vocational training for special-needs students in Washington County Public Schools. That program was moved in 2004 to Marshall Street School in Hagerstown's West End. The building is now used for storage.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG -- If the former Job Development Center building were to be occupied by people again, it would need a major overhaul, Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael told school board officials touring the building Tuesday morning.

Some of the issues school system officials discussed were the mold along the walls downstairs, asbestos in the floor tile adhesive and vandalism at the former school.

The 15,000-square-foot building, built in 1971, once housed the Job Development Center program. The program, which serves vocational training needs of special-needs students, was moved in 2004 to Marshall Street School in Hagerstown's West End.

The former site, on Federal Lookout Road south of Smithsburg, is used to store furniture and documents.

The Washington County Board of Education's Facilities Committee toured the building at the request of school board and committee member Donna Brightman.

For people to occupy the building regularly again, the building would have to be brought up to code, Michael said.

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That would include removing the mold; installing a sprinkler system; replacing the windows, doors and floors; taking care of any necessary asbestos removal or abatement; and making the building handicapped-accessible, according to Michael and Mark Mills, director of maintenance and operations.

"People underestimate how much it costs to maintain a building and to bring it back up to code," Michael told the committee during the tour.

After the tour, Brightman said she understand staff's concerns about the mold, deteriorating blacktop and the HVAC system.

"I see the issues, but, for one, I'm still open to the idea of an alternative use for this building," Brightman said.

Michael said Monday someone interested in an after-school autism program toured the building recently. The school system has no specific plan for the building, but mothballed it for "what if" possibilities, he said.

The other two school board members who serve on the Facilities Committee, Chairman Paul W. Bailey and member William Staley, were more apprehensive about alternative uses for the building.

Bailey said he was apprehensive about students using the building because of health hazards such as mold. He also was concerned about the cost of repairs needed to bring the building to state standards.

Staley said the building had deteriorated so much he couldn't see it being used for anything but storage.

It would be "bad money" to try to bring the building up to code, said Staley, who has experience in construction as a welder and foreman.

If the school system got a lot of money, then maybe the building could be renovated, but these are lean times, he said.

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