Kamenetz to ac­cel­er­ate air con­di­tion­ing in­stal­la­tion time­line for county schools

County to for­ward-fund state con­struc­tion dol­lars

The Avenue News - - Front Page - By NI­COLE ROD­MAN nrod­man@ches­pub.com

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz has an­nounced plans to for­ward fund, as­sign­ing county funds with the ex­pec­ta­tion that the coun­try gov­ern­ment will be re­im­bursed by the state, the state’s por­tion of school con­struc­tion fund­ing, al­low­ing the county to ac­cel­er­ate the in­stal­la­tion of cen­tral air con­di­tion­ing in public schools.

Un­der Kamenetz’s new plan, most of the re­main­ing el­e­men­tary and mid­dle schools with­out air con­di­tion­ing will re­ceive cen­tral air by the fall of 2017. High schools will re­ceive air con­di­tion­ing by Au­gust of 2018.

Cur­rently, 33 schools in the county are with­out air con­di­tion­ing, in­clud­ing eight in Dun­dalk. Orig­i­nally, Kamenetz’s plan called for all schools to be air con­di­tioned by 2021; that time­line was later ac­cel­er­ated to 2019. With this lat­est an­nounce­ment, the plan has been ac­cel­er­ated again.

The only ex­cep­tions will be schools al­ready slated for ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tions or re­builds. Those schools will be com­pleted ac­cord­ing to pre­vi­ouslyan­nounced time­lines.

This means that Dun­dalk, Berk­shire and Col­gate el­e­men­tary schools will not be air con­di­tioned by the fall of 2017, but will stick to their pre­vi­ouslyan­nounced con­struc­tion sched­ules.

Dun­dalk El­e­men­tary is slated to be­gin con­struc- tion next sum­mer, while Berk­shire has a likely build date of sum­mer 2018. Col­gate will fol­low with con­struc­tion set to be­gin in the sum­mer of 2019. Com­ple­tion dates have not yet been an­nounced.

Pat­ap­sco High School and Cen­ter for the Arts is slated for ma­jor ren­o­va­tions and will not be com­pleted un­til 2019.

The ef­forts are all part of Kamenetz’s 10- year, $ 1.3 bil­lion Schools for Our Fu­ture pro­gram. As part of the ini­tia­tive, the county has com­mit­ted to build­ing 15 new schools, along with ren­o­va­tions and the in­stal­la­tion in to­tal of cen­tral air in 90 schools that had been with­out it.

As part of that plan, the county has com­mit­ted two dol­lars for ev­ery one dol­lar in­vested by the state.

In his Fis­cal Year 2017 bud­get, Kamenetz had al­ready in­cluded $ 121.8 mil­lion to for­ward fund most of the state’s share of con­struc­tion funds, leav­ing a balance of $ 83 mil­lion to com­plete the pro­gram. He now hopes to fund the re­main­ing $ 45 mil­lion due from the state. Part of this fund­ing will come from a $ 20 mil­lion sur­plus in the school sys­tem bud­get.

The county will seek re- im­burse­ment of the $ 166 mil­lion worth of for­warded state funds.

Kamenetz’s lat­est move comes just weeks af­ter the state Board of Public Works ( con­sist­ing of Gover­nor Larry Ho­gan, Comptroller Peter Fran­chot and Trea­surer Nancy Kopp) voted to with­hold $ 10 mil­lion in state con­struc­tion funds on the con­di­tion that the county must in­stall por­ta­ble units in ev­ery class­room by this fall.

Kamenetz did not mince words in his an­nounce­ment of the ac­cel­er­ated fund­ing.

“Our stu­dents and teach­ers de­serve a cli­mate con­trolled and en­ergy ef­fi­cient cen­tral air con­di­tion­ing sys­tem and not win­dow units from Home De­pot, as sug­gested by the Gover­nor and Comptroller,” he said.

“Last week, Gover­nor Ho­gan with­held $ 10 mil­lion of state funds as ran­som so that we would ca­pit­u­late and in­stall win­dow units,” he added. “It’s ridicu­lous that we have to ad­vance the state’s share of fund­ing to do the job right the first time.”

He also at­tacked the board’s stip­u­la­tion that the air con­di­tion­ing must be in­stalled by this fall.

“For the Gover­nor to sug­gest that win­dow units could be in­stalled this sum­mer, know­ing full well that un­der State pro­cure­ment law it would take at least 16 months, is disin­gen­u­ous,” he said. “Shame on the gover­nor for not step­ping for­ward with the state share to com­plete the job in a timely man­ner.”

Ac­cord­ing to Alan Brody, a spokesman for Fran­chot, the comptroller is cur­rently look­ing at Kamenetz’s pro­posal.

“Comptroller Fran­chot is glad Bal­ti­more County is sug­gest­ing an ac­cel­er­ated plan to air con­di­tion all the public school class­rooms,” Brody said. “We’re re­view­ing it and ask­ing ques­tions. We’re hope­ful we can be sup­port­ive when the de­tails of the plan are clear and we can give it a fair eval­u­a­tion.”

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz has once again ac­cel­er­ated the time­line for in­stalling cen­tral air con­di­tion­ing in county schools.

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