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Kamenetz, Franchot feud heating up

John Lee

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has shaved two years off his plans for central air conditioning in the county’s schools. But that doesn’t mean the feud between him and state Comptroller Peter Franchot is cooling off. In fact, Franchot, who wants Kamenetz to speed up the process by putting in window units, is promising to let it boil over at next week’s state Board of Public Works meeting. 

"It’s either going to be the easy way which has been offered time and time again, or it’s going to be done the hard way," Franchot said.

The hard way, he pointed out, has to do with the wide ranging powers and options the board, which he sits on with the governor and treasurer, has.

And while he wouldn’t say specifically what options are on the table, he did say the board controls "a considerable amount" of school construction money and that "the governor has made it much more explicit and strong minded than I am even on this subject so I assume there will be a response."

Franchot has complained bitterly about the lack of air conditioning in some Baltimore County schools for months.

Kamenetz’ original plan to fix that would have central air in all the schools by 2021. The budget he sent the county council last month included $120 million to complete the project by 2019. Kamenetz says the faster fix Franchot wants--window units--is doing it on the cheap in the short term, and wasting money in the long run.

He says the schools that don’t have air conditioning are among the oldest in the county and don’t have the wiring to handle window units.

"So we would have to tear down the walls and put in new wiring to begin with," he said.

But Franchot says Kamenetz’s refusal to use window units creates a serious health risk for students and teachers. He called it "a particularly callous and cynical and political use of the county executive’s power to stand in the doorway and say 'no.'"

Kamenetz said he never knows "what to expect coming out of the Comptroller."

"But you know," he added, "I’m pretty confident that we are on the right path here."

Kamenetz’s chief of staff Don Mohler says the administration has heard nothing from Franchot or the governor about what they may have in store next week. He called it "political theater."