Cecil County Tech School: Basell Brawl Erupts as Amigos Commish Say NO Again, but School Board Vows to Fight On

October 17, 2012

The months-long fight over a proposed new vocational-technical high school on the Basell building site in Elkton turned into the “Basell Brawl” Tuesday, as the Three Amigos county commissioner group held firm against even considering it while county school board members vowed to fight on.

Tuesday morning, the Three Amigos majority of the Cecil County Commissioners refused even to schedule a discussion to re-consider an appeal by county school officials, supported by business groups and even local fire companies, to allow a feasibility study to proceed to determine if the vacant Basell property should be converted to a new vo-tech high school.

School officials met with the commissioners last Tuesday afternoon to request a reconsideration of the proposal and upped the ante on the project by offering to pay the estimated $60,000 cost of an independent engineering and feasibility study out of current school operating funds. [SEE Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2012/10/cecil-county-schools-up-ante-on-votech-school-but-2-amigos-balk/ ]

When that meeting ended, two commissioners asked to place the issue on the 10/16/12 morning worksession agenda for further discussion and a vote. But when the agenda for the worksession came out, the schools matter was nowhere to be seen.

“We agreed to put it on the agenda for a discussion and decision today,” Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) said. But since the issue had been pulled from the agenda for the worksession, Moore made a motion to put the issue on the Tuesday evening business meeting agenda for “a discussion and decision.”

Ostensibly, the item had been pulled from the worksession to give more time to Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3), who did not bother to attend the meeting with school officials last Tuesday afternoon. Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) questioned Dunn, asking “whether he has an open mind” on the issue and “is he prepared to make a final decision today.”

In response, Dunn said, “I think we already made a final decision back in May.” He asked Hodge, “Is this one of those re-do votes you dislike?”

Hodge then inquired of Dunn, “So your mind is made up already” and if, as far as Dunn was concerned, “nothing has changed?”

Dunn nodded his head in the affirmative.

The vote on Moore’s motion was the usual 3-2 Three Amigos majority–Commissioners James Mullin (R-1), Diana Broomell (R-4) and Dunn—voting against consideration of the school proposal while Moore and Hodge wanted to proceed.

Broomell once again pitched putting portable classrooms, or “relocatables”—otherwise known as trailers– on the site of the existing, inadequate votech school in North East and said that would be sufficient to address the current 155-student waiting list of teens seeking votech classes but unable to enroll due to limited capacity at the school.

“I just don’t think this is the time for us to be growing our school infrastructure,” Broomell said, adding that the county’s school population “has went [sic] down” in recent years.

While the overall county schools enrollment has diminished, the waiting list for votech classes has increased. There are now almost as many students on the waiting list as the 180 students countywide who are enrolled in votech classes.

Members of the county school board and CCPS senior staffers sat in the audience during the morning worksession but under the ground rules they had to sit in silence.

But the gloves and gags were off Tuesday evening, during the “Citizens Corner” public comment period held before the regular bi-weekly evening business meeting of the county commissioners.

Dawn Branch, a school board member, zeroed in on Broomell, and at times she was joined by board president Lauren Camphausen in a tag-team challenge to Broomell. (Dunn and Mullin did not show up for the citizens’ corner discussion.) For her part, Broomell held firm that she would not consider the Basell property as an “option.”

Branch pointed out that during her 2008 campaign for commissioner, Broomell stated that portable classrooms or trailers were “not adequate” solutions to school crowding and that a school of technology “should be a top priority for us to put in.”

“What changed along the way, that you were against it but now you’re for them,” Branch inquired about trailers for the school.

Broomell said that the “high quality” of the instruction at the current votech school would continue even if classes were held in trailers and complained that in the past CCPS “did not speak up” about overcrowding issues during the county planning process.

There was no shortage of speaking up by the school board members Tuesday night, as Branch noted, “You can’t have a welding program in a portable—they’re flammable.”

Broomell responded that cosmetology classes could be held in a trailer. (CCPS officials have pointed out in the past that cosmetology programs are among the most costly because extensive sinks, water and plumbing connections and supplies have to be established even in a bricks and mortar building.)

Branch said the trailer concept could end up costing more than the sprawling multi-purpose Basell property, with no long term payback opportunities. Camphausen noted that the old tech school is inadequate and in need of costly renovations if it is to continue being used for students, in addition to the trailers.

“The option on the table (Basell property) is not viable,” Broomell declared. “I had a mandate” from voters, she said, “no new taxes, jobs.”

But Camphausen and Branch said they had a mandate of their own: to provide votech for the students who need it. “This is not over,” Branch said of the fight for the Basell project.

“It’s not an ‘us’ and ‘them,’ “ Camphausen told Broomel and she criticized the “mindset” of some commissioners that they were being asked to do some sort of favor for the schools. “You’re making an investment in your county’s infrastructure.”

And at this point, CCPS is not even asking the commissioners for a commitment to proceed with the Basell site school.

School officials are just seeking authorization to negotiate with the property owners, who have set a $6.5 million asking price, and perform “due diligence” with the engineering study to assess the feasibility of converting the building to school use. The building, which was fully renovated in 2006 and already includes state-of-the art science labs, is on 91 acres of land and schools officials have said some of the land could be used for county parks and recreation or sold off for a tech park to attract businesses that could also partner with the school for training, internships or eventual hiring of graduates for jobs.

Commissioner Hodge weighed in with a slap against the Amigos, saying the three “had no interest” in pursuing the opportunities that the Basell site offered. “We are really shortchanging” students, he said, by not offering job skills for the many students who will not be going on to college. “It’s an investment” in the county’s future, he said, and not just “an expense,” and will “pay off in the long run.”

Overall, the CCPS proposal calls for the county commissioners to “invest” $10.3 million in the Basell site acquisition and renovation, with the state contributing $4.6 million to the project. CCPS would tap $1.5 million in schools reserve funds, as well as fronting the engineering study fees, moving costs and related expenses totaling about $300,000.

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22 Responses to Cecil County Tech School: Basell Brawl Erupts as Amigos Commish Say NO Again, but School Board Vows to Fight On

  1. Utterly Disgusted Voter on October 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I am appalled at the arrogance of these 3 “Servants” of the people who are obviously here on their own agendas.

    The request of voters to not raise taxes dosen’t equate to “Don’t spend money on anything!” Wemust invest in our children’s future for them to succeed in this world.

    Quit applying bandaids to a hemorrage problem! Look at ALL options in detail. You have commissioners voting on things that they have not even read/reviewed or have any knowledge of but will vote for/against anyway!

    Do your homework, get your heads out of your asses and do the job that the VOTERS elected you to do!

    Throwing them all out would be a great start! What a bunch of losers!

    • Rick O'Shea on October 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      Did you mean “Serpents of the people”? Broomell calls the shots for the 3 Amigos. She was defeated for County Executive. The mandate is for her to leave office. Like Artesian, the CCPS must wait until after the election.

    • Tidewater on October 18, 2012 at 6:00 am

      I am appalled at the ignorance of those who don’t pay the county credit card bill.

      Spending money we don’t have equates to protecting our children’s future from bankruptcy, and living as wage slaves to pay for it all.

      The federal government is bankrupt, the state government is very close to it, and now these useless educrates at CCPS want to push the county over the financial cliff.

      What does it take for you people to realize CCPS’s spending is already out of control, and it’s leadership incompetent with the millions we already give them every year?

      Stop CCPS from wasting money on useless sports programs and annual raises.

      Put Vo-tech back into each existing high school NOW with the funds they already get.

      Tell the Booth Street Bullies to get busy doing their jobs and stop the drama production.

      Viva Three Amigos

      • Smipless 2014 on October 18, 2012 at 8:00 am

        Tedwater, as a Central Planner and one who lives off government grants telling people how and where to live their lives, you know useless programs first hand.

        Both Cecil County and CCPS have current resources available to begin the process. Putting all Vo-tech programs into each high school is not possible. Relocatable schoolrooms is not viable for a tech school. Basell would be a modern efficient facility. Excess land could be sold or used for other county programs.

        Just study the facts instead of to your small-minded island of bias. I am appalled at the ignorance of Amigo Dunn, who didn’t pay his personal credit card bill. Amigo Mullin was voted out. Amigo Broomell was soundly defeated for County Exexutive. When the Three Amigos are gone the county will see progress.

      • Smipless 2014 on October 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm

        Tedwater should run for the School Board. He has lots of ideas. The election would provide a referendum on his policies.

  2. Joe C on October 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    As I listen and watch this discussion about a new Vo-Tech school, it has become obvious that those involved have not asked or answered very important questions such as:

    1. What other options have been considered to educate these purported 150 students that want this type of education?

    2. What type of Vo-tech education are these students interested in? This would drive the type of facilities type would be needed.

    3. Have private-public partnerships possibilities been explored? These type of arrangements are widely used in other countries so that the students are trained in industries that have job opportunities.

    4. What are the long term operational and maintenance costs of purchasing the Bassel property? It sort of reminds me of the old adage ” if a deal is to good to be true it probably is”. I am for a votech education but the cost has to be bearable for the taxpayer and allow a good return on investment.

    5. Can votech education be accomplished through other means such as other facilities offering such education?

    Once some of these questions are answered commonsense decisions can be made absent of emotions which now appears to be the case.

    • Lorraine on October 18, 2012 at 2:23 pm

      Joe, “purported” students? Are you claiming that the students who have signed up on the waiting list for technical classes are phantoms and do not in reality exist? Your paranoia sounds like Broomell’s conspiracy theories. You’ve been hanging out too much with your buddy, Mrs. B; you sound just like her!

      • Joe C on October 19, 2012 at 10:28 am

        Sorry Lorraine, that was not the point. Who are these students and what type of vo-tech experience do they want? Just answer all the questions, no conspiracy here! Thanks for proving my point about emotions though! Have a good day!

    • F Gaylord Moody III on October 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      These are good questions; they need to be answered. However, I would like to believe a rational assessment of the Basell property would incorporate discussion of those topics. Blocking a contract to allow due diligence cannot be mistaken for prudence. The irrational nature of one of our commissioners who always wants a “do over” whenever a decision goes against her has no doubt pushed the buttons of too many voters. That one commissioner has prevented commonsense discussion on almost every topic that has come before the board of commissioners since her election.

  3. Read Between The Whines on October 20, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    How are we to find room at existing high schools for vo-tech when they already have portables since kids can’t all fit in regular classrooms!?! Brilliant idea.

    • Smipless 2014 on October 22, 2012 at 8:02 am

      That particular suggestion is just as bizarre as the rest of the 3 Amigo options. Broomell wants to place portables at the outdaed existing School of Technology. She recently implied that there are units available that would accomodate technical programs. NOT.

      Dunn says didn’t we already vote against this? Mullin wants to close Bohemia Manor High School. Retaliation for losing the commissioner primary election in his district?

      They don’t want the CCPS to fund a study because they fear that an independent study would recommend the purchase.

  4. Ben G on October 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Answer to Q#1: We could tell them they should move to a different county where they actually have invested in a more current facility which can fit the students who want that specialized training –or that they need to change what they want for their future because they just don’t fit into our spending plans. Please understand that the tech programs are great opportunities for our children. The old stereotypes about who goes to VOTECH are basically dead. The kids who attend the facilities now are both focused and driven. I attended the school twenty years ago and it had a profound impact on my life and career.

    Answer to Q#2: Umm, the school district has spent quite a bit of time working with current and future students and with the private sector to try and predict how best to structure the school programs to meet the needs of the students and the county.

    Answer to Q#3: Maybe we can call on the local companies seeking to hire new employees and let them do all of the training? What do you think? Employers are looking for future employees with both training and hands on experience, both of which they get at the tech school. The school’s administrators and faculty work with both large and small businesses as well as corporations to develop their programs, to get current technologies and to make sure our kids are ready to be productive when they graduate.

    Answer to Q#4: The current school building was built around 1965 with a small addition not long after. Look at the other schools in the county and tell me which one is that old with almost no significant work done to it? I am truly impressed that the school has been able to keep functioning as well as it has for as long as it has, but it is time we moved into the current century. From the looks of the Basell building and based on my experience, I see an amazing opportunity for an adaptive reuse. Why try to scab on parts to a very small building with an incredibly limited site? A new technical school can cost anywhere from $35 to $60 million and they are not getting any cheaper. I know the numbers seem big, but it is what it is. Construction from ground up is expensive and is very time consuming.

    Taking a facility like the Basell building, doing a comprehensive study and building a plan will be the community’s best chance for bringing Cecil County’s technical school up to today’s standards. It will also be the cheapest.

    Answer to Q#5: Sure, we can take and move all of the technical programs out into the five high schools and have 5 times the teachers and 5 times the classroom/ equipment space. Or maybe we can just have certain programs at certain high schools and tell the kids that we are not allowing some to have the same access as others.

    This is our responsibility. I know that money is tight, but this is something that has been suffering for a long time. Cecil County was in the process for building a new technical high school until the economy fell. The school district is attempting to find a way for both the county and kids to have a win-win, less costs and a functioning school, but what are we to do.

    I hope for my kids we move forward at trying to provide them with the best opportunities so they can get employed. I read “no taxes and employment” are what is most important to us, but what will we have to say to our children or grandchildren when they graduate and cannot find any work? Also keep in mind who will be paying taxes which will be paying for our Medicare and Social Security in the future.

  5. Tidewater on October 24, 2012 at 7:34 am

    1. Educational vouchers for Vo-Tech kids cost way less than 60 million. So what if they have to go out of the county, their not going to be able to afford to live in CC because of the oppressive taxes we pay for educrat Cadillac pensions and above average salaries. The old stereotype that CCPS actually educates anyone for today’s economy is as dead as a sock hop.

    Ben, 20 years ago the kids actually had a work ethic. Today’s pupils could care less about anything unless it has to do with sports or consumerism. Lets face it, CCPS produces zombies who can’t think critically, have no work ethic and believe they are entitled to whatever they want without working.

    2. CCPS is good at talking. That’s all they know how to do. Meet and talk, meet and talk then beg to the public for more money. Sure they talk the talk, too bad they don’t walk the walk and do their jobs with what they have.

    3. Great idea. Provide a vo-tech educational voucher to each pupil who can be trained by local businesses. Now your thinking “outside the box.”

    4. Don’t need to buy or build anything with educational vo-tech vouchers. The businesses already exist. No need to hire overpaid jocks to run the place.

    5. We have too many gyms that can be converted to shops. More kids will benefit from learning a trade as opposed to carrier in sports entertainment. CCPS has plenty of room, they just need to get rid of the dead weight. An over emphasis on sports is an addiction we must break. Turn those useless and expensive coaching staffs at each high school into Vo-tech teachers. Same cost more benefit to society.

    Ben G, It will take more than hoping to educate your children. Have you considered taking personal responsibility for educating your own kids? Have you considered Home Schooling or are you another “let the government do it for me zombie?” CCPS and public schools across America are failed experiments. I guess you and many others on hear wont realize just how much these so called educators are destroying our society until we are totally out of other peoples money.

    Wake up pal, money is not tight,there is no money because CCPS and there ilk are bankrupting America and Cecil County.

    • Lauren C on October 25, 2012 at 9:05 pm

      Wow. What trauma did you experience during your time in the public schools? As usual, your ridiculous, unfounded rants leave you simply looking bitter and petty. I do encourage you to keep up the CCPS-bashing comments though because I count on them to fuel my resolve to keep doing what I’m doing. A criticism from you simply validates I am doing the right thing.

      Oh, and for future reference, it’s DOCTOR Devine.

      • Tidewater on October 25, 2012 at 11:33 pm


        Doctors work in hospitals and first, do no harm. Phd’s who call themselves Doctors don’t really work and do lots of harm.

        Happy to make your day!

        • Dr. on October 26, 2012 at 9:04 am

          You poor, pitiful loser.
          Doctors, Phd’s, have earned their status. Your bigoted remarks illustrate your lack of achievement, but indicate you may have tried and failed.

      • Dr. Fill on October 26, 2012 at 10:11 am

        While I have not had access to Mr. Tidewater, I see a recurring theme of resentment toward authority figures. His anger toward bureaucracy indicates that he himself is a bureaucrat who feels unfulfilled by his work, which probably runs counter to his stated beliefs. The resulting conflict causes him to regard himself as a Judas receiving his thirty pieces of silver.

        Placing “shops” in “gyms” reveals his contempt for blue collar workers as well as disappointment in his own athletic history. The “trauma” you mention could well be the result of a sports injury. I would recommend that he resolve the conflicts in his life.

    • Ben G on October 26, 2012 at 11:49 am

      I am sorry to hear that you did not get any use out of your high school education. Trust me when I say that 20 years ago my parents’ generation was saying why spend money on schools because the current kids are lazy, have no work ethic and only want to party. I know from my father that his dad’s generation thought very similar of his. …

      Vouchers are trash and a waste money. You really want to have everyone give the government your money and they hand it back to other people?

      Also please tell me that you are not so naive to believe that businesses who are struggling are able to tackle the education of students. It is one thing once you get basic training to start in a position, another to begin raw. Like it or not in the real world of say construction, you start pushing a broom and it takes years to move up and be competent, unless you are a horrible fly by night construction company. Training only on the job is also very limited because, unless the employer has his company set up for internships to work and teach, it always fails. Now if you want to unionize all of these companies so they can be forced to put these policies into place, then you would have an argument.

      Please do not belittle people with PHDs. They work very hard for them and like it or not they are what will allow the DR’s at the hospital to do what they do as well as allow the modern world to function. Things like electricity and medicine come from people who talk, think, ask questions and test their theories.

      You can talk all you want about educating you children yourself, but we live in a world where we all need money to survive and we need a place for our children to go and learn. Parents are responsible for teaching them to be good and moral people while supplementing their knowledge learned from school. Schools are structured to give the kids the most current knowledge and access to current technology.

      It is not perfect, and most of us who experienced it, understand that and want to help make it better. Those who appose it are typically ignorant outspoken fools who have not read a non-fiction book recently or watched the news without the words “fair and balanced” in the title. I believe that if you have to say you are fair and balanced, it is because you are not.

  6. Donna C on October 29, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Rather than hiding behind closed doors and complaining, maybe Tedwater could come out of hiding and get involved. I agree with Smipless, he should run for school board but that would require work. It’s easier to stay home and send out emails. Ted was also put on the County Budget Advisory Committee and to look for waste in the county and to this day, I haven’t seen any suggestions/reports from him. As a matter of fact, after a couple of meetings he stopped attending altogether. But that’s ok, it will look good on his resume when he decides to run for something again.

  7. Tidewater on November 2, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Dear Big government CCPS freaks,

    Name calling, character, assassination and stealing other peoples property by electing … politicians to pay for a horrid school system is all you people have learned in your journey with CCPS because that’s all they got for you.

    Your commentary proves the inadequacy of a modern public school education. If someone has a different idea attack the person, not the idea. Stalin and Mao would be proud of you.

    Your dear leader, Ex Union President Devine uses her “Phd” to help dig the financial hole deeper for taxpayers of Cecil County. As I read her lemmings grovel for even more taxpayer money to toss into the public school rat hole while we go broke, it makes me wonder if Ms. Devine’s “Phd” stands for Post hole digger. If not it should.

    We would be better served by a person who actually has a Post hole digger “Phd”, and who knew how to teach others to use one to produce something of value rather than your dear leader who wants to push the taxpayers over a financial cliff with excessive public debt.

    Wake up people, the credit card is getting cut up because we are running out of other peoples money.

    Not Ted, but he sounds like a really great person.

    • Jackie on November 3, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      Tediwater, how are things going with your work as a central planner in Delaware? You aren’t exactly a bastion of credibility when it comes to the principles of limited government and the free market since you are a team leader for “Complete Communities” in Delaware. Stalin and Mao would be proud of you. Glad to hear that you think of yourself as a great person.

  8. Rick O'Shea on November 3, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Gee Tedwater, why so angry? “Name calling, character assassination”, “If someone has a different idea attack the person, not the idea”. You are reciting the tactics of Delegate Smigiel and Senator Pipkin. Like them, you cry like a baby when the heat is applied to you. Always the hypocrite, you attack others while being critical of their attacks on you.

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