The State Board of Public Works put the heat on Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz Wednesday, voting to allow state school construction money to be used to pay for portable air conditioning units.
It was the latest volley in the political battle between Kamenetz and State Comptroller Peter Franchot.
For months, Franchot has lambasted Kamenetz for not installing window units in county schools that lack central air conditioning. Franchot has repeatedly hammered Kamenetz by telling stories of children and teachers suffering in dangerously hot Baltimore County classrooms.
Kamenetz has called the window units a “Band-Aid” and a waste of money.
Four Baltimore County Council members appeared before the board to support Franchot’s plan, among them Todd Crandell. He said there are 11 schools in his Eastern Baltimore County district with no air conditioning. Crandell said he hopes Kamenetz will agree to use state school construction money for window units.
"This might be a temporary fix," Crandell said. "Some people have argued that a temporary fix is not a good use of taxpayer funds. But anything we can do to prepare our young people for the future is something that we should do. Sometimes you have to suck it up and spend the money."
Kamenetz spokeswoman Ellen Kobler called the vote "pure political theater." She said the county will continue with its plan to put permanent air conditioning in all county schools. The county has asked the state for more money so it can get that job done by 2019.
"By the time the electrical upgrades would be engineered and window air conditioners installed, we will have completed the job with a permanent solution," Kobler said.