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Washington County schools' maintenance backlog tops $53 million

October 15, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Schools has $53.8 million in deferred maintenance, including its non-school buildings and Americans with Disabilities Act deficiencies, according to a school system document.

Board of Education Vice President Jacqueline Fischer said that when she was first elected to the school board in 2002, she was staggered by the $90 million maintenance backlog.

“That number was cut in half over the next several years, based primarily on the generosity (at) that time of both the state and local governments, who were of course able to afford it at that time,” said Fischer, according to a video of the board’s Oct. 2 meeting.

“I do fear what that number may rise to given the huge reduction in funding, both state and local, that I believe we are facing in the next year or two,” Fischer said.

With the expected razing of the current Bester Elementary School, after a new school is built, and the future closing of Winter Street and Conococheague elementaries, after a new “West City” school is built, $4.4 million in deferred maintenance will be averted, according to a presentation document for the Oct. 2 school board meeting.

Of the $53.8 million in deferred maintenance, $6,212,000 was for non-school facilities — the Administration Center and the former Job Development Center building, which is used primarily for storage, according to the presentation document.

In April, Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael said most of the $4,757,000 in deferred maintenance for the administrative centers was for the Central Office complex off Commonwealth Avenue. The school system has another administrative building on Frederick Street.

The school board voted in June to have the superintendent investigate a long-term solution for housing the school system’s administrative offices and report back to the board by Dec. 31.

Almost $15.8 million of the deferred maintenance is priority one projects at schools.

Priority one projects are ones that could potentially cause the immediate shutdown of a building, Michael told the board. Such projects include the failure of a roof, heating, air conditioning, or an electrical failure, he said.

Of the $53.8 million backlog, $11,353,651 was for Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, deficiencies, according to the presentation document.

As the school system installs new equipment or renovates buildings, it addresses ADA needs, Michael said. The school system tries to accommodate immediate ADA needs when children with disabilities start at a school, Michael said.

The school system is required to submit a comprehensive maintenance plan to the state, partly to ensure the school system has a plan to preserve the assets the state invested in, Michael said.

The school board voted unanimously Oct. 2 to approve the plan to send to the state.

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