City offers space for print shop

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 16, 2004

City Manager R. Steven Herbert has asked the School Board to consider a proposal to move the school system’s ailing print shop into a storefront at White Marsh Shopping Center.

In an Aug. 12 letter to School Superintendent Dr. Milton R. Liverman, Herbert said the city would absorb the costs of renovating, relocating and renting the building. No cost estimates were available.

The city needs the current print shop site – the old cafeteria of the former Suffolk High School at Clay and Freemason streets – to move ahead with construction on the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts in September.

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Plans call for razing the print shop and Birdsong Recreation Center so the city can make utility improvements and extend Finney Avenue to Pine Street over the next two years.

The city is hoping to begin renovations at the White Marsh site within the next 30 days, enabling the print shop to be moved by Thanksgiving, according to the letter.

School Board members, during last month’s meeting, balked at the city’s proposal to move the print shop. They appeared united in the belief that it shouldn’t be moved from a building already owned by the division.

&uot;I have a real problem with moving into rented quarters when we own (our building),&uot; said Liverman at the July meeting.

Even if the city is footing the bill, the school board remains leery about moving into another leased facility. The city currently pays the school board’s rent in the Professional Building downtown, its new home since January.

&uot;We are concerned about the possibility of having to pay rent or incur costs that we had not planned for,&uot; said Jim Perkinson, vice chairman of the school board. &uot;What happens at the end of two years or whenever the lease is up?

&uot;…And if it is included in a future CIP plan, does that mean it will pull money out of some other project we need? That is one of our biggest concerns.&uot;

Perkinson, who said the division has looked at alternate sites, stressed that the board isn’t against progress planned for downtown.

Perkinson said school board members have looked at other sites and are willing to sit down and talk with the city leaders.

&uot;We want to sit down and discuss various possibilities,&uot; he said. &uot;We are not opposed to progress. We are willing to work for the betterment of the city and school.

City Councilman Calvin Jones, who was on the School Board for several years, said he understands his former colleague’s concerns.

&uot;With the cultural arts center and other things happening around the print shop, you can see the need for it to be relocated to another place,&uot; Jones said. &uot;I think the biggest concern with school administration… is that they don’t want to take from their operating budget anything that would hurt education for kids.

&uot;Hopefully, if they (the schools) are not saddled with the costs,&uot; the two boards will come to a mutually acceptable agreement, he said.

Last month, Liverman indicated he would prefer the city invest the money they would be spending on rent to purchase or erect a new building for the division’s printing operations.

Herbert, in his letter, agreed to include construction of a new printing and storage facility on existing school property in a future Capital Improvements Plan.