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Maryland Comptroller backs request for more state funds for Bester Elementary construction

'Providing a good healthy environment for the kids makes all the sense in the world'

February 13, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, right, talks about his support of the new Bester Elementary as Washington County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael listens Wednesday.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

While touring the construction site of the new Bester Elementary School on Wednesday, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said he supports the county’s request for slightly more than $1 million in state funds for the project on top of the $7.6 million already provided for it and was “very optimistic” that it would be approved.

“This is a well-run construction project, taxpayers’ money is being well spent, the kids are going to benefit, the faculty will benefit, the state will benefit,” he said. “This is the type of infrastructure investment that makes sense.”

Franchot, a member of the state’s Board of Public Works, which is made up of the governor, comptroller and state treasurer and approves school construction funding, said he visits schools throughout the state to assess current needs and long-term plans for future renovations. He walked through the Bester construction site, behind the existing elementary school at the corner of South Potomac Street and East Memorial Boulevard, with Washington County Public School officials and Bester Elementary School faculty and staff members Wednesday.

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He said his support for the funding was reinforced by the visit, especially after learning about the geothermal heating and cooling for the school.

“That’s the wave of the future, it’s good for the environment, it uses Mother Earth to heat and cool the school,” he said. “Providing a good healthy environment for the kids makes all the sense in the world.”

Franchot also was told that a community gym in the school would have natural lighting.

“The environmental improvements end up saving the taxpayers money,” he said. “This is good to get out and actually see them in operation or being planned, and I’ll take the word back to the governor and treasurer, and hopefully they’ll be supportive also.”

According to a chart that WCPS officials showed Franchot, the total cost of the project is more than $24 million. Nearly $15.5 million has been funded locally in addition to the money provided from the state.

Washington County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael, who helped lead Franchot around the site, expressed optimism that the state would grant the rest of the money.

“We won’t know until the Board of Public Works makes an official vote sometime late in May after all the state budgets and things are approved,” he said. “If we come up a little bit short, we’re eligible for the next two years to apply for money from the state for Bester, and I’m sure we’ll pursue that.”

Michael said the new school will provide a 75,000-square-foot structure that will have room to seat 608 students and will include a science lab, a music room, and an art room.

“We want to show him (Franchot) that the money they are investing in Washington County and Bester is well worth it,” Bester Principal Kristi Bachtell said. “The students and faculty are very excited to be looking forward to moving in here in August of 2014.”

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