State OKs School Improvements

BERLIN — The state’s Board of Public Works last week approved roughly $250 million in public school improvement projects across Maryland, including several significant upgrades in Worcester and Wicomico counties.

The Board of Public Works, which includes Gov. Martin O’Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, last week approved a laundry list of recommendations from the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) for the fiscal year 2013 budget totaling roughly $250 million statewide.

Among the projects approved last week for Worcester County included new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems for Berlin Intermediate School, Pocomoke Middle School and Snow Hill Middle School totaling $47,000 each. The three county schools are all at least 40 years old and each has HVAC units at least 30 years old.

For years, the Worcester Board of Education has tried a piece-meal approach to replacing the school’s failing heating and air conditioning systems but the process has been a slow one. For example, the current proposed budget identifies a total of 21 HVAC units that need replacing, but the spending plan only includes funding for two or three replacements.

In addition, the state board last week approved funding totaling $23,535 for replacing the gym lighting at Stephen Decatur High School.

The total contribution approved for Worcester, including the HVAC replacements and the gym lighting at Decatur, came to $164,535.

The board also approved $267,221 for Wicomico County for energy efficient lighting at Pittsville Elementary and Middle schools.

All told, the IAC funding approved for Worcester and Wicomico counties combined totaled $431,756.

For the nine counties on the Eastern Shore, the board approved $1.25 million for school improvement projects out of the $250 million approved for the entire state.

The IAC recommendations were based on each school system’s capital improvement school construction program requested for the state’s fiscal year 2013 budget. After reviewing each jurisdiction’s capital construction plan, the IAC made specific recommendations on funding approval to the board, which by and large, rubber-stamped the recommendations last week.

A large portion of the funding approved last week was provided by the increase in the state’s alcohol tax approved by the General Assembly last year.