Charles County del­e­ga­tion hosts bond bill hear­ing

Maryland Independent - - News - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

Each year, ci­ti­zens can make leg­isla­tive re­quests to the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers and the Charles County del­e­ga­tion. This year, how­ever, the board of com­mis­sion­ers noted that they would leave all bond bill re­quests to the del­e­ga­tion.

On Tues­day, ci­ti­zens came out to the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land in La Plata to have their re­quests heard.

Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton (D-Charles) said the del­e­ga­tion may not have much money to work with this ses­sion be­cause of the state’s deficit.

“We only had about $250,000 to dis­trib­ute last year,” Mid­dle­ton said.

Del­e­ga­tion Chair­woman Del. Edith Pat­ter­son (D-Charles) said she did not know how much money the state would give them to work with this year. How­ever, she said, “we still want to lis­ten to re­quests and take them as se­ri­ously as we al­ways do.”

Among the re­quests this year were $250,000 for ren­o­va­tions to the old Pomon­key High School by the Pomon­key High School Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion, $250,000 and land trans­fer from the county for the Mary­land Vet­eran’s Mu­seum in New­burg and sup­port for the South­ern Mary­land Sport­plex and Learn­ing Cen­ter.

Phillip Thomas, pres­i­dent of the Pomon­key High School Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion, said the school is a “sig­nif­i­cant struc­ture for African-Amer­i­can his­tory in Charles County” and needs to be pre­served be­cause of that. It is one of two his­toric seg­re­gated high schools in the county along with the Bel Al­ton high school, he said, and was used as a com­mu­nity re­source un­til 1958.

“The build­ing will be used as a com­mu­nity cen­ter as well as for archives and re­search,” Thomas said. “It’d be avail­able for use by other lo­cal, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions as well.”

If the re­quested funds are ap­proved, Thomas said, the ini­tial scope of re­pairs will in­clude “se­lec­tive” de­mo­li­tion of non-his­toric ad­di­tions and some changes to worn down parts of the build­ing. The build­ing has been des­ig­nated as a his­tor­i­cal site by the Mary­land His­tor­i­cal Trust, he said, and would be part of a big­ger des­ig­na­tion for the en­tire Pomon­key His­toric Dis­trict.

The to­tal cost of the project is $1.5 mil­lion, he said.

Mid­dle­ton said he wants the state to be able to help pre­serve the build­ing, but be­cause of the lack of funds they may do bet­ter re­quest­ing money from the Mary­land His­tor­i­cal Trust, which gives grants for ren­o­va­tion projects like this one.

“The his­tor­i­cal trust has put a pre­mium on pre­serv­ing African-Amer­i­can cul­ture, which is a good thing,” Mid­dle­ton said.

Del. Susie Proctor (D-Charles, Prince George’s) said she would hate to see a build­ing as valu­able to a com­mu­nity as the Pomon­key High School be lost be­cause of failed ren­o­va­tions. “It’s a gem,” she said. She sug­gested get­ting an ap­praisal of the build­ing and the land to see what, ex­actly, it is worth and move for­ward pre­sent­ing that in­for­ma­tion to the state. Thomas said he would, but the build­ing is “worth more than 10 times of what­ever that amount is” in the lives of the peo­ple who at­tended school there.

Dot­tery Wash­ing­ton, the CEO of South­ern Mary­land Sport­plex and Learn­ing Cen­ter, said she did not have any re­quests for fund­ing be­cause the re­quest she would make would be too large.

The fa­cil­ity she is look­ing to build in Charles County would be 100,000 square feet with three lev­els and dif­fer­ent sport­ing ac­tiv­ity cen­ters for both the youth of Charles County and the el­derly.

“We want ev­ery­one to be able to par­tic­i­pate, not just the youth,” she said.

She has been in talks with for­mer NFL play­ers, Nike, Un­der Ar­mour and many other spon­sors who have been in­ter­ested in in­vest­ing in the cen­ter. All she needs is a space from the county, she said.

Del. C.T. Wil­son (D-Charles) said he had con­cerns with the project be­cause of its com­pe­ti­tion with the Cap­i­tal Club­house, a sports com­plex al­ready lo­cated in Wal­dorf. But the ideas and changes Wash­ing­ton made com­ing into the meet­ing were still en­cour­ag­ing, he said.

“I like that you went out and made changes to your idea and didn’t just come with the same idea. I told you about the is­sues I had and you ad­dressed some of them here,” he said.

Still, she said, she needs a space to op­er­ate, but has not been able to get a meet­ing with the board of com­mis­sion­ers.

“I’ve emailed them. I’ve called them and haven’t got­ten any answers. They’ve re­fused to meet with me, and I don’t know why,” she said.

Pat­ter­son said the del­e­ga­tion could write the com­mis­sion­ers a let­ter re­quest­ing that they hear Wash­ing­ton’s ideas, but in the mean­time she should con­tinue to try meet­ing with them.

Larry Abell, the pres­i­dent of the Mar yland Vet­er­ans Mu­seum, said the mu­seum has be­come one of the fix­tures on many state gar­den tours and is look­ing for more space and ar­ti­facts to ac­cu­rately rep­re­sent Mary­land’s her­itage in the mil­i­tary.

Abell re­quested $250,000 from the del­e­ga­tion for ren­o­va­tions, land and ex­hibits. Cur­rently, the mu­seum is work­ing on adding new ex­hibits fea­tur­ing the Mary­land 400, which was the first reg­i­ment that fought in the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War, ex­hibits fea­tur­ing more women who helped fight and win wars, and a Buf falo Sol­diers ex­hibit, which was an African-Amer­i­can reg­i­ment that was es­tab­lished by congress as the first all black reg­i­ment in peace­time af­ter the Civil War.

“We’re do­ing a lot of good things at the mu­seum and try­ing to em­pha­size the im­por­tance of women and mi­nori­ties in our coun­try,” Abell said.

The mu­seum is still wait­ing on ap­proval from the county com­mis­sion­ers for a land ex­ten­sion on the mu­seum, he said, and they have enough fund­ing to match their re­quested amount in bonds.

Wil­son said he ap­pre­ci­ated the mu­seum and what Abell has done in mov­ing it for­ward. As a for­mer soldier him­self, he said he ap­pre­ci­ates the respect and em­pha­sis the mu­seum puts on all of the coun­try’s his­tory.

“I can take my daugh­ters there and say ‘This is where daddy ac­tu­ally was.’ I’ve taken them there. I can re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate that,” he said.

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