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Thursday, April 24, 2014 6:03 AM

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School, home repairs needed in southern Prince George’s, some residents say


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Published on: Thursday, February 21, 2013

By Tauren Dyson

At a community meeting Friday morning, Prince George’s County Councilman Obie Patterson, District 8, and other officials talked about improving the quality of life in the southern portion of the county.

First up: Southern Prince George’s County schools.

“Some of the parents don’t want their kids to be moved,” Patterson said. “Shifting kids from one school to another.”

For example, the current Oxon Hill High School holds approximately 1,700 students. But the new Oxon Hill High, which is currently being built and scheduled to open in August, will hold only 1,200. Many parents are upset that 500 children will be uprooted and moved to new schools.

Patterson also pointed to the number of south county schools that are old and in need of either repair or replacement. Patterson said County Council has increased Prince George’s County Public Schools’ budget by $20 million, which should help in making the necessary repairs to schools.

“We need to look at the priority list on how about doing renovation on some of the schools,” Patterson said. “We (have) got some very old schools in this part of the county, and we want to use our leverage to get them taken care of.”

A construction project that the county has brought to District 8 is the Southern Regional Technical and Recreational Center — a 37,000-square-foot facility that will hold a fitness center, computer room, two high-school-size gyms, an Internet café, and environmental learning center.

But with new opportunities coming to District 8, there are still older problem that need fixing. Many on hand at the meeting talked about home code violations and how they could drag down property values.

Matthew Thomas, Prince George’s Environmental Resources programs manager, gave advice for residents on the lookout for code violations. Many residents on hand were concerned about growing number of raggedy homes popping up in their neighborhoods due to high vacancies. Thomas’s agency is charged with making sure houses are up to code and property standards are met.

“With the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative, we are bringing more forces to bear on property issues,” Thomas said. “All of our inspectors are tasked to go to their assigned areas and take note of any vacant or abandoned properties.”

Along with more diligent enforcement from his inspectors, Thomas and others are leaning on the banks that own foreclosed homes to maintain the quality of those properties while they remain empty.

Still, Thomas wants residents to stay vigilant about the problem of code enforcement. That means reporting homes with high grass and weeds, with debris in the yard, with unregistered cars in front of the home or the driveway, and making sure no commercial vehicles are parked on residential streets.

“I hear it all the time ‘this is my house, this is my property. I can do what I want to do,’ and I say, ‘No ma’am, no sir, we have certain rules and regulations that everyone has to follow,’” Thomas said.

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