St. Mary’s has first student-built house in 10 years

June 20, 2012

Scott and Melanie Bateman are ready for next month’s move into their new home, a two-story house that overlooks Breton Bay and that was built largely by St. Mary’s County students.

The Batemans strolled around their home this month during an open house attended by the students and the contractors and skilled trade workers who helped them learn the techniques to construct it.

“It’s beautiful,” Melanie Bateman said when asked how they thought the house turned out. The couple plan to move into the Leonardtown area home in early July.

Several building trade students from the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center were at the June 7 event, talking about their experience working with skilled contractors.

“In the beginning, everybody did whatever was needed,” Andy Sprouse said. As the house took shape, the students were able to delve into specialties, such as working on molding or banisters.

Sprouse said he felt proud to meet the owners and tell them he helped build their new home.

Student Kyle Burnes said he was surprised and impressed with how quickly the large house was constructed. He said he and others worked almost every school day and some weekends on the home.

“We wanted to be a part of it,” Burnes said.

The house is the first built by students from the Forrest center in 10 years. Participation had waned, and the program was put on hiatus until the Building Trades Foundation was formed last year to partner with the St. Mary’s school system and create a more streamlined experience.

“It was really a good project,” carpentry instructor Tony Cherry said.

Theo Cramer, principal at the Forrest center, even gave the students a lesson on drywall installation, a skill he used to help get through college.

“The only way we can do this is with the foundation,” Cramer said. “Without the foundation, there’s no way we could do this annually.”

Many contractors chipped in, offering discounts or donating materials and labor for the project. In turn, they are hoping to see a stronger cadre of trade students in the pipeline for careers.

“These are jobs that need to be filled for the next 30, 40, 50 years,” said Jim Bacot, Building Trades Foundation chairman.

Bacot, who also is president of Brooks Run Builders, said the house sold for $440,000, slightly less than the appraised price.

The Building Trades Foundation is a private nonprofit organization separate from St. Mary’s public schools that was created to help revive the Forrest center’s dormant student home construction program. It does not use public funds for the home-building projects.

Bacot said the Batemans contacted him as construction was getting under way and offered to sign a contract to buy the home. He acknowledged that the foundation could have taken a chance on selling the home for more on the open market, but “a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush.”

The foundation will be able to put more than $25,000 in profit from the sale of its first house back into a fund to help with future home-building projects, Bacot said. He said that future projects could be sold on the open market but that the foundation does not rule out building a home with a contract in hand again.

Bacot and other foundation members are searching for new plots of land on which to build houses during the next school year and beyond.

“There is land available,” he said, adding that they need the houses to be somewhat close to the Forrest center in Leonardtown.

The Batemans’ new 2,857-square-foot home is on five acres with a view of Breton Bay. Melanie Bateman said the house will be great for the couple’s two children, Lacey and Jack.

She said she and her husband had chances to look over the original plans for the home and make changes or suggestions. The biggest change was to add a second bathroom on the top floor.

“I grew up here, on this farm,” Scott Bateman said.

His mother still lives in a neighboring home, and the land for the new Bateman home was purchased by the Building Trades Foundation from his aunt.

Bateman said he was delighted to be able to buy a house to raise his children where he grew up.

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