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Commissioner Defends School Construction Funding Claims

July 22, 2002

I am compelled to respond to Mr. Ashbury's column Gardner Needs to Keep Her Facts Accurate. My facts are 100% accurate. State school construction funding to Frederick County was $64.9 million during the term of the current Gray board; $26.2 million during the term of the Hoke board; and, $17.7 million during the term of the Sundergill board. My source of these facts is the county finance office and can be verified by the state. Figures are available by fiscal year and by project. I researched this information before putting it into the public record. I have reference these numbers in the past during various speeches including comments before the Rotary Club and during my announcement speech.

I have always stated that I helped to secure the $65 million in school construction funds obtained during the term of this Board of Commissioners. It is a valid and significant accomplishment of this Board of Commissioners. I have played an active, personal and important role in securing these funds. I have and will continue to speak to this accomplishment.

It is a fact that I have actively worked to secure state school construction funds. I have regularly attended meetings with the Interagency on School Construction in Baltimore regarding state school construction priorities. I have never seen any other county commissioner or state elected official from Frederick County at any of these meetings. Board of Education members and Frederick County Public School staff have attended these meetings. I have interacted regularly with Dr. Yale Stenzler on school facility needs in Frederick County including lobbying for money. I have also interacted with voting members of the Interagency on School Construction (IAC). I have made every effort to keep the school construction needs of Frederick County in the front of the decision makers at every level. These efforts are important, and they do make a difference.

It is a fact that I have lobbied the governor for state school construction funds. Delegate Sue Hecht and I have met with the governor every year to lobby for state school construction funds. Most years we have met with the governor on multiple occasions for this purpose. Elected officials from other jurisdictions also meet regularly with the governor and state staff to lobby for the school construction needs within their jurisdiction. If these efforts did not matter or make a difference, as implied by Mr. Ashbury, I wonder why so many busy people from counties across the state are making this effort. The reality is that it does make a difference to share the needs of our community with the governor and others in the state administration. I have also attended the school construction appeal before the Board of Public Works in Annapolis every year I have been in office. This year, I was the only county commissioner who attended.

I have not hedged the truth. The facts are the facts. Delegate Sue Hecht was in attendance at the forum hosted by the Frederick County Association of Realtors. She complimented me for my speech and took no exception to my comments. Delegate Hecht and I are personal friends as well as professional colleagues and we work together as an effective team. Clearly, Delegate Hecht and others played a role in securing state school construction funds including the many parents and PTA members who wrote letters to both the IAC and the Board of Public Works.

I have recently been appointed by the governor to serve on a state task force on public school facilities. This task force will look at the impacts of implementing all day kindergarten, possible formulas for funding school construction, the Aging Schools Program, and other relevant discussions regarding adequate school facilities. School construction has always been a focus of my efforts and I am recognized for my efforts on school construction by many individuals in the state.

I will always do my best to speak to the facts. It seems the purpose of Mr. Ashbury's irresponsible and inflammatory column is to misrepresent the facts. Another candidate and former county commissioner claimed to have worked and obtained over $100 million in school construction funding during his eight years in office. Will Mr. Ashbury write about the accuracy of this statement?

Mr. Ashbury is correct in stating that I worked for a Fortune 500 Company. I worked for the Quaker Oats Company in distribution and operations management. This is a known fact.

I have consistently worked to secure state school construction funds and have consistently voted to support education. I will continue to do so as long as the children and citizens of this county need new and renovated school facilities.

Mr. Ashbury has, from time to time, suggested that I need a box of Kleenex. Mr. Ashbury needs a big roll of toilet paper!

Jan Gardner
Frederick County Commissioner, Frederick

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