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Commissioners holding hearing Tuesday about land-purchase proposal for 'West City' school

Meeting set for 11:30 a.m. at County Administration Building

September 10, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY — The Washington County Commissioners are holding a public hearing Tuesday morning concerning the proposal to buy 16.5 acres behind Walmart for a new “West City” elementary school, according to the commissioners’ meeting agenda.

The commissioners could vote as early as Tuesday on whether to approve spending $1.5 million for the property. The hearing is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at the County Administration Building at 100 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown.

The Washington County Board of Education voted 5-1 in August to close Winter Street Elementary in Hagerstown’s West End and Conococheague Elementary west of Hagerstown after the 2015-16 school year, upon completion of a new “West City” elementary school.

A new “West City” elementary school not only would replace the two aging schools, but could be big enough to ease overcrowding at neighboring elementary schools through redistricting, according to a school system report and officials.

The commissioners voted 3-2 in May to approve a sale contract, with a $1.5 million purchase price, for the site contingent upon meeting legal requirements.

The land, near dozens of homes in the Hager’s Crossing housing development, is along Hager’s Crossing Drive with the city limits to the north, Buell Court to the east and Sedgwick Way to the west.

The owner of the site, Hagers Crossing Multifamily LLC, bought the property in November 2011 for $525,000 from Chesapeake Holdings HC LLC, according to Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation records.

The county has the option of backing out of the sale contract if officials change their minds about the site after studying it. The county extended the original 90-day study period by 30 days, an option it had at a cost of $5,000.

The school system paid ECS Mid-Atlantic $8,850 to conduct an environmental assessment and to do geotechnical reporting on the site, Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael said. The company, which has an office in Frederick, Md., submitted the paperwork to a state clearinghouse for review by various agencies.

Michael said he wasn’t aware of any issues with the land or any reason the state would disapprove of the land being used for a school. The school system should hear back from the state agencies no later than Sept. 17, he said.

The school system had informational meetings about the proposed closure of Winter Street and Conococheague elementary schools in May, and had a public hearing about the proposed closures in July.

Winter Street was built in 1953, and underwent an addition and renovation in 1973. It is a neighborhood school where children either walk there or are driven there by a parent or guardian, according to the superintendent’s report that recommends replacing the two elementary schools with a new one.

Conococheague Elementary was built in 1960. It has a well-water system and drinking water is supplied in bottles, according to the superintendent’s report.

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