Kristin Harty Barkley
CUMBERLAND — It’s expected to cost around $2 million to demolish the nearly 500,000 square feet of buildings at the former Braddock campus of Western Maryland Health System, where a new Allegany High School is to be built.
And though the state is expected to provide funding for a large portion of building costs, demolition is an “ineligible expense,” according to Vince Montana, facilities director for the Allegany County Board of Education.
So the board and county government — who haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on issues in the recent past — are planning to split the cost.
“What I would be willing to do is go back to my board on Thursday and work out to get you $1 million to go towards taking down this building,” Commission President Mike McKay said Tuesday, after board members initiated a discussion about how to fund demolition.
McKay said the county expects to realize some savings through refinancing debt and would consider directing some of that toward demolition. And, McKay said, “we’ve got — I really believe — some great things happening on the horizon here very shortly and it will give us an opportunity to sock away some money for contributing some more to this project.”
Building a new Allegany High has become the No. 1 capital projects priority for the county, after some initial squabbles over how construction money should be spent.
Commissioners initially excluded the project from their Capital Improvement Projects list for 2013, but later amended the list and supported the project.
The state’s oldest operating high school, Allegany — built in 1925 — has become obsolete, studies have shown. The BOE decided to build a new high school after spending more than two years studying how best to reconfigure its secondary schools.
Preliminary estimates show that the county would pay a total of about $13 million toward the estimated $34 million project, and McKay said Tuesday that he wants to stay as close to that number as possible.
A more accurate estimate of costs won’t be available until site preparation and design work are completed — which could take up to two years.
BOE staff is reviewing proposals from 13 architect and engineering firms to narrow its list of finalists. They expect to have a recommendation for the board by January, Montana said.
“I think what we need to do as the two bodies is stay in contact on this issue,” said BOE member Ed Root. “As we get information we need to feed that to you. And we need to sit down and work with you to see exactly where we are at each given moment. At some point down the road we’ll get a hard figure.”
Board members voted 5-0 to pledge $1 million from its school construction budget toward demolition, contingent upon commissioners pledging their $1 million to the project.
Officials hope to recoup some costs by recycling materials, though it’s not known exactly how much money might be saved. Plans are for demolition to begin by this summer.
Last year, city, county and school officials worked with representatives from Western Maryland Health System to secure the hospital site.
Board member Mike Llewellyn said that spirit of cooperation bodes well for the project.
“I appreciate you working with us on this,” Llewellyn told McKay Tuesday night. “We’ve got to get this thing torn down. I think what’s neat about this project has been the way we’ve come together and worked together on it.”
Contact Kristin Harty Barkley at firstname.lastname@example.org.