School Projects Outlined In Capital Improvement Plan

SALISBURY – Educational officials came before county leaders last week to highlight the need for funding three capital improvement projects.

Last Thursday, Acting County Executive John Psota held a public hearing on the county’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for fiscal years 2022-2026. The five-year planning document includes $94 million in general fund requests and $77 million for enterprise fund requests.

“This plan is intended for projects that have a significant scope and dollar amount …,” said Finance Director Pam Oland. “This is something that has a multi-year aspect to it, or a large dollar amount where we may have to borrow funds to fund it.”

The proposed CIP, which totals roughly $171 million in project requests over the next five years, includes $19.6 million for the construction of a new public safety building, $7.4 million for the public library and $35 million for the Wicomico County Board of Education.

Officials said the board’s requests would allow the school system to complete the replacement of Beaver Run Elementary, move forward with plans for a renovation and addition at Mardela Middle and High School and replace the roof at Westside Intermediate.

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“At this point in time, it’s our intention to find funding for those top three items,” Oland said.

The proposed CIP includes more than $28 million for the Mardela Middle and High addition and renovation. The school system’s request for $10 million in fiscal year 2022 will allow crews to begin construction once the design phase is complete.

Mardela Principal Liza Hastings encouraged county leaders last week to support funding for the school’s renovation and addition. She highlighted failing HVAC systems, safety concerns and inadequate instructional space for the school’s 668 students.

“My job as principal is to ensure my students are provided with a safe environment that is conducive to instruction,” she said. “Unfortunately, the condition of our current building makes this difficult to achieve.”

The school system’s request also includes $4.7 million in fiscal year 2022 to complete the replacement of Beaver Run Elementary. Principal Curt Twilley said the final allotment of county funds would keep the project on track.

“The $4.7 million we are requesting is going to be essential to completing this project in a timeframe that is already laid out,” he said.

In addition to the two school construction projects, the proposed CIP includes $1.7 million for a roof replacement at Westside Intermediate. While the state had deferred its portion of funding due to fiscal constraints, education officials encouraged county leaders to proceed with the project in the coming year’s budget.

“To maintain the existing facility, Westside Intermediate is in definite need of a new roof …,” said Principal Christina Stewart. “While everyone recognizes the fiscal constraints we are under, and the many needs of our county, please remember that our school has waited three years now on something that is essential for the overall condition of our school and will support the learning environment for our students.”

Superintendent Donna Hanlin told county leaders last week that while the school system had many needs, it had prioritized the three major projects.

“In Wicomico County, we take great pride in data-driven decision making in our strategic planning, especially with the prioritization of our school facilities,” she said. “All of our decisions, as you’ve heard our principals say, are with the ultimate goal of educating our students, and in the best facilities possible.”

Oland said the executive’s CIP would be submitted to the Wicomico County Council in December.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.