A contingent of elected officials tore into a proposal to construct the new elementary school in Campus Hills on Wednesday – questioning not only the health of the water, safety of the intersection and cost of the project at the Route 22 site, but also the Board of Education’s approach to building the facility outside Harford County’s designated development envelope.
Local residents joined their representatives in raising a myriad of concerns regarding the new Campus Hills Elementary School during Wednesday’s Development Advisory Committee.
Harford County Council President Billy Boniface said, “We have a Master Plan process and contrary to what the Board of Education has said it is not an area slated for growth – it is outside the development envelope.”
Boniface expressed surprise at an announcement made during the meeting that a new groundwater well would be needed at the site to provide water to the school and its students. Boniface said, “We were told existing wells would handle the capacity.”
Boniface asked for the new well to be tested for methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive that has been deemed a likely carcinogen, since a gas station once shared the property.
Boniface also said he was disappointed that given the number of concerns about the school site, no one from the Board of Education, the school system’s management or the County Executive’s office was in attendance at the DAC meeting.
State Senator Barry Glassman cited traffic concerns in the area saying, “There’s no use building something if people can’t get to it.”
Glassman said that Campus Hills Elementary School was being planned at a failing intersection, creating problems including access for emergency vehicles. Glassman said “we should demand” a comprehensive transportation study be done “prior to completing a project of this magnitude.” He asked for the study to be coordinated with state and local government, Harford Community College and the Board of Education and that the study include a timeline for mitigation and a plan for “who will pay.”
County Councilman Slutzky spoke about the cost of improvements to Rt. 22 using funds from local highway taxes. Slutzky said that given the current economic climate, he had little confidence the State would share the cost, meaning county taxpayers would end up paying the full cost of improving a State road.
Area residents also raised concerns about well water capacity, the ability of the soil to support sewage drain fields, conditions on the roads leading to the school including Wheel Road, Edwards Lane and Thomas Run Road, overall traffic congestion and the community’s strong opposition to expanding Rt. 22 outside the development envelope.
One frustrated man in attendance during the DAC meeting even questioned, “Who authorized the School Board to expand the development envelope?”
After the meeting, Councilman Slutzky summarized the concerns expressed by those in attendance. “It’s water, sewer, traffic and the pressure to expand the development envelope.”
Slutzky noted that a new school will be built to relieve overcrowding at Prospect Mill, Fountain Green, Hickory and Forest Lakes Elementary Schools. The issue is whether the new school should be Red Pump Elementary, which is located inside the development envelope and was furthest along in the planning process or Campus Hills Elementary, which still faces a number of hurdles.
The Board of Education decided to halt the development of Red Pump and proceed with Campus Hills, but the County Council is seeking more information before they grant the necessary approvals.