Frederick studies providing land for new schools -- Gazette.Net


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Frederick city may attempt to help ease overcrowding in county schools by transferring a site on what is known as the Hargett Farm property and selling an additional parcel from the Sanner Farm tract to the school system, officials said.

The site on the Hargett property, which is about 12 acres, would be used to help ease overcrowding at Hillcrest Elementary School with the construction of a new elementary school.

The Sanner property would be used for a middle school that would serve Governor Thomas Johnson High School now, but eventually a new high school would be constructed in the northern part of the county, according to Ray Barnes, executive director of facilities services for Frederick County Public Schools.

The Frederick Board of Aldermen discussed the school sites with Barnes during a workshop on Oct. 24.

Aldermen Shelley Aloi (R), Carol Krimm (D) and Karen Young (D) said during the meeting that they would support the transfer of the Hargett property.

A transfer of that property was initially discussed by the aldermen and the Frederick County Board of Education in 2009, but the agreement has never been finalized.

“I want to see this property get into the hands of the board of education as soon as possible,” Krimm said. “There was a commitment made in the previous administration for this site to be the site of a school.”

The city paid $18 million for the 148-acre site in 2009.

Alderman Michael O’Connor said the city could potentially recoup some of the money lost in transferring the property by incorporating a public recreation facility into the school site, an option Barnes said was possible.

That facility would be part of the school, but used by the city Parks and Recreation Department or other groups for classes. The department currently uses Valley Elementary School and other locations for some classes.

Barnes said the school site on the Hargett Farm would break ground in the summer of 2015.

The other site in question was a 25-acre piece of the 62.5-acre Sanner Farm, which the city bought for $6.5 million in 2008.

At a meeting between the aldermen, school board and Frederick County Board of Commissioners held Oct. 22, discussion centered on whether the city would be willing to sell the property.

Several aldermen said on Oct. 24 that they would be willing to sell the property, but potential costs weren’t discussed.

Mayor Randy McClement (R) also said the city would be willing to sell the property.

Aloi said the city would have to be compensated because Frederick residents have already paid for the property via taxes, and transferring it for free would be subsidizing the construction of a school.

City residents pay taxes to both the city and county. County taxes are used for services provided to city residents by the county, including schools.

Barnes said the school system needed to know if the city would be willing to part with the property before conducting a feasibility study to see if the land was viable, which costs about $20,000.

He said the school system would evaluate the site for both a middle school and a potential combined elementary and middle school.

Transfer of the properties will be scheduled for a public hearing before the board of aldermen, but not date has been set.

tlaino@gazette.net