Future use of former Allegany High School unclear

The Allegany County Board of Education will retain the former Allegany High School for at least another year until the move to the new school is complete.

CUMBERLAND — The future use of the former Allegany High School at 616 Sedgwick St. could be a complex one for local government officials.

Officials must decide if the gymnasium, built in the 1959, or the 1,000-seat auditorium could be retained and utilized or if the entire property should be demolished.

The new school on Haystack Mountain will officially open on Aug. 20 with a 9:45 a.m. dedication ceremony. Public tours will follow.

Although many decisions will take place in the coming months, the next likely step will be the Allegany County Board of Education transferring ownership of the old school to Allegany County.  However, that will not occur anytime soon. And as far as the county transferring it to the city, Mayor Brian Grim said the city would be hesitant to take on another potentially-costly real estate endeavor.

Superintendent of School David Cox said the BOE will continue to use the old school for another year. And as far as the ballfields are concerned, maybe several years.

"We will continue to use the old school until the move is complete," Cox said Wednesday. "All of the teachers' materials and equipment has been moved from the old school to the new, but there is still a lot of the furniture there. The new furniture is better, so we'll swap some out. Some may be used in other schools. That is one example of the use of the building (now).

"When we get to a position where we no longer have a use for it, by resolution the school board, we will convey the ownership to county government," he said.

The new school has a football/soccer field and a baseball/band rehearsal field.

"It's our plan to retain the playing fields (at the old school)," Cox said. "There is a football field and a baseball field there. Because there are so few fields, our plan is to keep our fields in possession of the school board. We have multiple activities that require space. We have freshman, JV and senior sports. Having those fields will help."

A parking lot is located at the southern end of the old Allegany, adjacent to the auditorium, which would also be conveyed to the county, according to Cox. However, the school board must maintain the 94-year-old school on Sedgwick Street for now.

"The buildings will be winterized," Cox said. "If there is a community need or use in the future that will be dealt with. The heating in that building is complicated because it has been added on to so many times. There are old coal boilers ... no air conditioning."

The city has faced challenges in recent years following the real estate transfer that placed the former Memorial Hospital tract in city hands. The management and ultimate demolition proved costly. 

Grim said some county officials expressed interest in the past of gifting the former Allegany to the city.

"Memorial Hospital was given to us," he said. "It was a significant burden to the taxpayers. I don't think there is a solution of the county gifting (Allegany) to the city that would be advantageous. I would be very hesitant. I don't know if there is any condition that we could take the cost on .... maintaining it or demolishing it."

Grim and other local officials said the option of finding a private, or nonprofit entity, to take over the gym or auditorium, would present a significant challenge.

"It probably doesn't have an immediate use," Grim said. "The gym is good and the auditorium ... I've have many performers say it has great acoustics, I just don't see the city operating that.

"But, I agree, that would be a great location for good quality homes, while keeping the character of the neighborhood in tact."

Grim said he feels the city and county will cooperate on the issue in the future.

"Right now, I think it is a matter of transitioning," said Brandon Butler, Allegany County administrator. "We will take a look at the community needs. Housing is a key part of economic development. If we pull folks in, we must have a place to put them ... somewhere for them to live. It's something that we will be discussing as we move forward." 

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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