Commissioners OK Financing Plans

SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners formalized their plans to go to the bond market in 2019 with a resolution last week.

Last Tuesday the commissioners approved an intent resolution regarding plans to finance the new Showell Elementary School, as well as a few other projects, through general obligation bonds. Kelly Shannahan, the county’s assistant administrative officer, said the county’s capital improvement plan included a handful of projects that would be funded with general obligation bonds. While the largest of those is Showell Elementary School, others include a new turf athletic field and track at Stephen Decatur High School, completion of a cell at the central landfill and various water and wastewater projects.

Commissioner Chip Bertino was quick to question why the proposed cost of the new elementary school had increased by nearly $1 million to a projected total of $48 million.

Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins explained that the increase in funding would allow for the addition of four pre-kindergarten rooms to the building. He said those had been suggested by school system officials because they expected the state to mandate full-day pre-kindergarten in the near future.

“It may well be appropriate to include that now rather than later,” Higgins said.

Bertino also asked about the more than $3 million in wastewater projects that the bond would help fund. Public Works Director John Tustin said they included a new filter press for the Ocean Pines Sanitary Service Area, a new operations center for that area as well as the painting of the water tower and pump station upgrades.

Commissioner Jim Bunting said education officials had convinced him that it would be less expensive to incorporate the additional classrooms during construction of the new Showell Elementary School than after it was built.

“This does make sense,” he said. “It’ll save us a lot of money.”

He added however that he hoped the school system and county government could work together to bring more state education funding to Worcester.

“It’s not fair,” he said of the current state formula used to allocate state education funds.

Commissioner Joe Mitrecic agreed and referenced a recent visit to Wicomico County.

“They were renovating a school and were getting more for the renovation of an elementary school than we were getting for the complete building for a whole new school,” he said

Superintendent Lou Taylor agreed that the funding formula was unfair to Worcester and said the situation was no better now than it had been 35 years ago.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.