CCPS de­ferred main­te­nance pro­jected to hit nearly $50 mil­lion

Plan to close Leeds put on hold

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ ce­cil­whig. com

— De­spite spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars on school im­prove­ment projects last year, school of­fi­cials still ex­pect the sys­tem’s de­ferred main­te­nance to climb by more than $ 4.5 mil­lion this year.

Last year, Ce­cil County Pub­lic Schools com­pleted a $ 19 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion at Per­ryville El­e­men­tary School, resur­faced

ELKTON

the ten­nis courts at Ris­ing Sun High School and com­pleted four boiler re­place­ment projects. But none of that is ex­pected to make a sig­nif­i­cant dent in the school sys­tem’s de­ferred main­te­nance, which of­fi­cials an­tic­i­pate to reach nearly $ 50 mil­lion this year.

“We’re still not dig­ging out of a hole — we’re tread­ing wa­ter,” said Perry Wil­lis, CCPS ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for sup­port ser­vices. “It re­ally is a balanc­ing act right now and it’s not go­ing to get much bet­ter un­til we get some of these projects mov­ing quicker.”

The lat­est de­ferred main­te­nance pro­jec­tion came dur­ing school of­fi­cials’ pre­sen­ta­tion of the fis­cal year 2017 com­pre­hen­sive main­te­nance plan and fis­cal year 2018 cap­i­tal im­prove­ment plan to the school board on Mon­day night. Both these plans are re­quired an­nu­ally and, af­ter the board ap­proves the plans next month, the plans will be for­warded to the state for po­ten­tial state fund­ing.

All in all, Mon­day’s meet­ing proved to be a frus­trat­ing one for the elected school board as they ex­pressed con­cerns not only about the de­ferred main­te­nance but also about the sys­tem’s pro­posed cap­i­tal projects, in­clud­ing the fu­ture of Leeds El­e­men­tary School and pos­si­ble ren­o­va­tions to North East Mid­dle School and Ken­more El­e­men­tary School.

Adding to the board’s frus­tra­tion is an un­cer­tain fund­ing cli­mate at both the state and lo­cal level. At the state level, a com­mis­sion set up by the Gen­eral Assem­bly is cur­rently con­duct­ing the first com­pre­hen­sive look at Mary­land’s school con­struc­tion pro­gram in 12 years, with a full re­port ex­pected in De­cem­ber — just in time for the state leg­is­la­ture to act on its find­ings when it re­con­venes in Jan­uary.

Mean­while, at the lo­cal level, two new coun­cil mem­bers and a new county ex­ec­u­tive will take of­fice fol­low­ing the Novem­ber elec­tion, shak­ing up the other po­lit­i­cal en­tity re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing school con­struc­tion funds. Also fresh in the school board’s mind was a res­o­lu­tion it passed ear­lier this month al­lo­cat­ing $ 245,000 for emer­gency air con­di­tion­ing re­pairs at the Bo­hemia Manor mid­dle and high school com­plex and at the Ce­cil County School of Tech­nol­ogy.

“We re­ally need to start to talk about this path that we’re headed down, es­pe­cially with the two projects that just ap­peared on our doorstep,” board mem­ber Lauren Cam­phausen said. “Some of these schools that are barely even show­ing up on the CIP aren’t ex­actly Taj Ma­hals.”

Larger na­tional trends are also not fa­vor­ing the school sys­tem, Wil­lis said. With the re­cov­er­ing econ­omy, there’s more work avail­able and con­trac­tors are charg­ing more for their ser­vices. This could mean fewer — and higher — bids on any work that CCPS does have the money for and is a big rea­son of­fi­cials ex­pect a 2.5 per­cent in­crease in de­ferred main­te­nance this fis­cal year, Wil­lis said.

As in the past, the ma­jor­ity of CCPS’s de­ferred main­te­nance falls into the ar­eas of me­chan­i­cal and roofs, with those two cat­e­gories mak­ing up about $ 29.57 mil­lion and $ 11.49 mil­lion re­spec­tively of the pro­jected $ 49.63 mil­lion fis­cal year 2017 de­ferred main­te­nance.

Sim­i­larly, the school sys­tem’s pro­posed fis­cal year 2018 capi­tol im­prove­ment plan in­cludes many projects aimed at ad­dress­ing this de­ferred main­te­nance, in­clud­ing boiler re­place­ments at Perr yville High School, Conowingo El­e­men­tary School and Ris­ing Sun El­e­men­tary School and roof re­place­ments at Ce­cil Manor El­e­men­tary School, the Bo Manor school com­plex and the Prov­i­dence School.

The sec­ond year of fund­ing for the Gilpin Manor El­e­men­tary School re­place­ment project topped the list and lo­cal plan­ning funds for the Ch­e­sa­peake City El­e­men­tary School re­place­ment project were also in­cluded. CCPS ex­pects to break ground on the Gilpin Manor project in the com­ing months while the school sys­tem is cur­rently in the process of ne­go­ti­at­ing the pur­chase of land from the fire com­pany for the Ch­e­sa­peake City project, Wil­lis said.

But it was the pri­or­ity or­der of the ren­o­va­tions to Ken­more El­e­men­tary School and North East Mid­dle School that gen­er­ated the most dis­cus­sion among the school board. The ren­o­va­tions to Ken­more are part of a plan school of­fi­cials an­nounced in 2014 that would close Leeds El­e­men­tary School by the 2020- 2021 school year and ex­pand Ken­more to ac­com­mo­date those stu­dents.

Since the clos­ing of Leeds is con­tin­gent on the Ken­more ren­o­va­tions, that project has been listed ahead of the ren­o­va­tions to North East Mid­dle on the sys­tem’s list of cap­i­tal projects. But on this year’s list, the NEMS ren­o­va­tion is listed ahead of Ken­more, noted Charles Sim­pers, man­ager of school con­struc­tion.

The plan to close Leeds may be on hold af­ter some re­cent suc­cess with fix­ing the school’s on­go­ing wa­ter qual­ity is­sues, cou­pled with the in­creas­ing amount of de­ferred main­te­nance at NEMS, Sim­pers said.

For fis­cal year 2017, CCPS es­ti­mates that NEMS will have more than $5 mil­lion of de­ferred main­te­nance, said Ted Lam­bert, su­per visor of fa­cil­i­ties, not­ing that the school was first built in 1932 and most of the equip­ment is from 1973.

Con­versely, the main is­sue at Leeds has been its well sys­tem, which has been re­placed three times yet still cre­ated many wa­ter qual­ity is­sues at the school. How­ever, last Au­gust, CCPS in­stalled a stor­age tank sys­tem at the school, which seems to have fixed that prob­lem, Lam­bert said.

“The Leeds build­ing still doesn’t have a gym­na­sium, still doesn’t have some in­struc­tional spa­ces that it does need, but as a func­tion­ing fa­cil­ity with only $600,000 of de­ferred main­te­nance, it seemed to make sense to grab more de­ferred main­te­nance and push North East Mid­dle in front of it,” Wil­lis said.

Over­all, CCPS is ask­ing for a to­tal of $ 6.73 mil­lion from the state and $ 6.1 mil­lion from the county, both less than the sys­tem asked for last year, Sim­pers said.

But board mem­ber Cam­phausen said she’s wor­ried that the school sys­tem’s re­quest isn’t ag­gres­sive enough, sug­gest­ing that within the next two years, CCPS should con­sider putting two school ren­o­va­tion projects on the ta­ble at once.

“Ei­ther we’re go­ing to have to do it cat­a­stroph­i­cally at some point or we have to star t push­ing that en­ve­lope a lit­tle bit,” she said.

Wil­lis noted that the school sys­tem tries to make its re­quest some­thing the county can rea­son­ably af­ford. CCPS wants to avoid send­ing the county a re­quest it can’t even con­sider, he added.

“We’ve backed off in or­der to give them some­thing that’s more re­spon­si­ble from a fund­ing per­spec­tive,” Wil­lis said.

But Cam­phausen said the county seems to be tak­ing ad­van­tage of the school sys­tem by con­tin­u­ing to lower the amount of debt it’s com­fort­able carr ying.

“We’ve back­slid,” she said. “At some point those tough con­ver­sa­tions have to be had.”

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

Af­ter solv­ing the wa­ter qual­ity is­sues at Leeds El­e­men­tary School, school of­fi­cials’ plan to close the school has been put on hold.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

A plan to ex­pand Ken­more El­e­men­tary School to ac­com­mo­date stu­dents from Leeds El­e­men­tary School has been put on hold.

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