GREENBELT—Despite being shut down for years, the city’s budget still has $200,000 reserved in the capital budget for renovations to the old Greenbelt Middle School, but the council is not all in agreement with where that money should go. The city has discussed using the old school building for other uses in the past, according […]
GREENBELT—Despite being shut down for years, the city’s budget still has $200,000 reserved in the capital budget for renovations to the old Greenbelt Middle School, but the council is not all in agreement with where that money should go.
The city has discussed using the old school building for other uses in the past, according to Councilwoman Silke Pope, but has not moved forward with any of the plans.
“I thought we had already taken that out of the budget,” Pope said. “This is a lot of money and that could be very helpful to us for other things that we want to do. I think we really have to think about what to do with this $200,000. I don’t think this is going to happen and I’ve said this before.”
The city budgeted $50,000 for renovations to the building last year but increased that to $200,000 this year because of new cost estimates done to make the school a usable space, according to City Manager Mike McLaughlin.
The decision to use the space for something has been made, McLaughlin said, but what they will use the space for has not been determined.
Before determining how to move forward with the space, Mayor Pro-Tem Judith Davis said, the council needs to sit down with the school board in a work session to determine if they will receive any aid from them for renovations.
The city has inquired to the school board on whether or not they will renovate the building, Davis said, but they have not received a solid answer back. Before the council takes any action, Davis said, the school board needs to be consulted.
“Let’s just get it done and finished and then we can move from there,” Davis said. “If they are going to say no, we aren’t going to renovate then we’ve got a firm answer.”
Mayor Emmett Jordan said his concern is that the council could potentially underfund other issues in the city because of the funds reserved for the school, while waiting on answers from the school board.
“To me, it’s just a question of if we end up underfunding other priorities potentially,” Jordan said. “Maybe we could provide more funding for bus shelters or something of that nature. That’s just my opinion.”
Councilwoman Leta Mach said it does not hurt to leave the $200,000 in the capital budget the city gets an answer from the school board.
“We have a committee of citizens that have spent years discussing this issue. It is still up in the air and until we get a definite answer to our questions I think itis a disservice to the citizens who spend all that time on it,” Mach said.
The school board has been consulted previously, McLaughlin said, and has said it would use the space but would like to negotiate what will be done rather than just committing to renovations with no plan of what the building would be used for.
“We talked with (Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO) Dr. (Kevin) Maxwell a year ago and he said they would be willing to negotiate,” McLaughlin said. “So they know that they made a commitment and we have meetings set up to talk about using the space. But we need to get back to those meetings.”
Pope said she respects the points Mach made on keeping the funding for the school, but she does not agree with letting the money sit when other things can be funded in the meantime. There are other issues that need to be tended to like adding another dog park in the city, renovating the animal shelter and renovating the current dog park for future use, Pope said.
“We want to do the surfacing for our animal shelter in the back. (Davis) added $5,000 to the council wish list for renovations to the front of the shelter,” Pope said. “We also have to put on the list a possible separate dog park. We can take that money and spread it out and make a lot of constituents who pay taxes happy with that instead of having that money sitting there.”
Because the money allocated to the project is filed under the Greenbelt West fund, McLaughlin said, it can only be used for projects in Greenbelt West and not the general area.
“This money is budgeted in the Greenbelt West infrastructure fund. So there are limitations to how those funds can be used and generally they can be used in the Greenbelt West neighborhoods,” McLaughlin said. “It’s not as if it is $200,000 sitting in the capital budget fund that can be used anywhere.