Residents responded to Baltimore County on issues of the potential sale of the North Point Government Center, school closings and a proposal to move the North Point police facility to the Eastwood Elementary Magnet School located at 428 Westham Way in Dundalk.
About 50 residents and concerned citizens gathered at the Eastwood Elementary School cafeteria Wednesday night to listen to Bryan Sheppard, Special Assistant to County Executive Kevin Kamentz, on the issues of the potential closing of their school, the Eastwood Elementary Magnet School, and the proposed new location of North Point Police Precinct 12.
It didn’t take long to get at the core of the meeting as Eastwood Residents & Business Association President Bob Nozeika introduced Mr. Sheppard to the audience. The audience was respectful but demanding in their quest for answers over the issue of their school.
In the beginning Mr. Sheppard set the parameters for the meeting explaining that he did not have all the answers because part of the process involved the Board of Education and their effort on how best to utilize their facilities. Mr. Sheppard further stated his job was to bring back the community's concerns to the county executive. He emphasized the county’s effort to facilitate these changes without cost to the taxpayers.
It didn’t take long for those in attendance to voice their concerns. Mr. Nozeika had to gavel the audience after the very first question. From then on the meeting went smoothly but nonetheless passions ran high.
One particular resident, Vice President Jim White, said he was disturbed over the fact that he lives right across from the school and felt it would impact his family’s life in a negative way. Mr. White elaborated by referring to such issues as the location of the current precinct and it being centrally located and not intruding on the tranquility of the community. He also alluded to traffic concerns that would impact Eastfield such as the continuous coming and going of police vehicles along with the safety of accessibility onto Eastern Boulevard.
Another issue that drew conflicting comments was regarding having a police facility in the community and the impact on property values. The president of the association, Bob Nozeika, said he spoke to a realtor who said the police station would have no impact on the property value, while another actual realtor in the audience opposed that assumption with her view that such a facility would have a negative impact on not only property values but also impact the interest level of those looking to move into the Eastwood area.
Another resident wondered whether or not a heliport would be built at the location. Mr. Sheppard said he was not aware of any such plans if the project moves forward.
One resident spoke out and said, “They are going to do what they want anyway.” That statement was followed up with "what about the school if they don’t sell the government center?" Mr. Sheppard’s response was he did not know but in responding to other questions, he promised to have a school board representative available if requested at future meetings.
Ericka Sapp, who is a resident and has a daughter who attends the school, was concerned about the lack of input of the parents whose children would be impacted.
“I don’t want my daughter to be placed in a school that does not meet the same standards as Eastfield," she said. That is my biggest concern at this point.”
Another resident Johanna Hennel, who also has a daughter in the school, shared the same concerns: “I am concerned that they are not allowing us in the decision making process.”
One resident asked if the decision moves forward on the sale of the government center, she was concerned what might be built on the property and if the recreational facilities would be available during the transition. Mr. Sheppard responded that the ball fields and other recreational facilities would be available for use by residents. Mr. Sheppard stressed that until the bids come in the county does not know what developers have planned for the government center. Mr. Sheppard did say all bidders must abide by the terms of the RFP (Request for Proposal).
Mr. Sheppard did mention the issue of the PUD (Proposed Unit Development) which could impact the RFP process in such areas as zoning.
The three points I took away from the meeting were the community did not want the police station; the round of applause was loud from the statement of “leave us alone” and the final decision on the issue would come from the County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.