In making its decision about whether to select Oxford Square as the new middle school site last week, the Howard County Board of Education raised an issue that has worried some Elkridge-area residents for months.
On Oct. 20, the in the planned development off Coca Cola Drive in Hanover for a middle school to open in 2014.
Less than 1.5 miles away from the site is land that CSX has bought for a , where trains and approximately 900 trucks per day would exchange cargo should the facility be built there. CSX and the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) are investigating the nearby site at Hanover and Race Road as well as three other sites in Maryland.
Transportation officials said that having the school on the nearby site would not necessarily be a determining factor in whether Hanover is chosen for the intermodal facility.
“We will continue to coordinate with the Howard County Public School System and Board of Education as we move through this process," said MDOT spokesman Jack Cahalan in an email to Patch following the school board's decision to move ahead with plans for the middle school. "However, at this time, we believe the two potential facilities could coexist."
Some school board members were not so sure.
“…Are we rolling the dice?” asked board member Brian Meshkin, during the deliberation about the property at the board's Oct. 20 meeting.
"It could be that the board taking a position and putting a school on that site could help dissuade the [intermodal] facility from being located a mile and a half up the road," said board member Frank Aquino.
Another member spoke as though the intermodal facility were already there.
“This school is going to service students who live in that community, who will have that intermodal facility by their homes,” said school board member Sandra French. “…How far do we transport them to get them away from what is considered by some to be an undesirable facility?"
Ken Roey, director of facilities for the Howard County Public School System, said at last week's meeting that staff needed to get plans moving so the school could be eligible for 2013 funding.
Board members voted to proceed with the process.
"I don’t see how we can reasonably continue to delay based on the decision of some large company," said Aquino.
The board voted to approve the site, with Allen Dyer the only dissenter and Cindy Vaillancourt and student board member Tomi Williams abstaining.
Roey said that the school site had to be on the books for funding pruposes but that the actual site could be changed up until the time that "construction plans are executed."
Drew Roth, a parent who lives less than 2 miles from the proposed site, said, "We hope the school board only approved a middle school at the Oxford Square site to get in the state planning pipeline."
Continued Roth: "We really hope if the intermodal goes in the Hanover site, the school system will yank the school out of Oxford Square."
MDOT and CSX said the site for the intermodal facility would be determined by summer 2012.
"Leading up to the , we will be meeting with federal agencies to discuss the project schedule," said Cahalan. "The current project timeline anticipates completion of the NEPA [site selection] process in summer 2012. Any refinements to the project schedule, based on federal agency input, will be presented at the November workshops."