County officials should look into acquiring the state Department of Housing and Community Development building in Crownsville for a police academy, at least according to former County Police Chief Larry W. Tolliver.
The state Board of Public Works decided last month to move the housing and community development office and its 380 employees to New Carrollton in Prince George's County in 2015. Tolliver — who lobbied Anne Arundel officials to replace the dilapidated police academy in Davidsonville during his less than 10 months as police chief — said in an interview last week the relocation could open an "opportunity" for a new police facility.
He suggested that County Executive Laura Neuman approach state officials about the site.
Tolliver acknowledged he doesn't know about the condition of the Crownsville building or how feasible renovations would be, but said he thought it would be worth exploring. It may be more cost-effective than starting from scratch on a new police academy, which has been estimated at costing up to $10 million, he said.
A facility would need at least offices, classrooms and a gym, though police also use outdoor training facilities.
"I was really focused on the building itself," Tolliver said, adding, "Hopefully they could get some land. They have a really good [firing] range where they are, but if they [state officials] would give up a few acres to go along with it, they could have a new range there."
The existing police academy, on 17 acres in Davidsonville, is a former Nike missile site that is more than a half-century old. Its main building is moldy and its classrooms small, a missile silo reborn as a subterranean exercise center often floods, showers in the men's locker room don't work and discolored water has stained sinks.
Tolliver extracted a promise last year from then-County Executive John R. Leopold that police academy plans "should be a priority" in his fiscal plans. However, Leopold was convicted of misconduct in office in January, and Neuman was appointed to fill his term.
Neuman did not include a new academy in her first budget. She said last week that the county "clearly" needs a new police training facility, but there wasn't enough money to meet all of the county's needs immediately.
Neuman did not discount Oliver's idea, but said it was too soon to say whether the Crownsville facility would be a good site.
"It is worth looking at and we will look at that," she said. Meanwhile, she said, she did not know what the condition of the structure was or how involved renovating it might be.
Oliver's idea also piqued the interest of County Council members.
"We ought to consider it," said Richard Ladd, a Broadneck Republican.
"That's the type of thing we ought to be thinking about," said Jamie Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat. "This would be a means at least to some degree to stem some of the adverse effects on some of our local businesses."
Ladd and Benoit are among five councilmen who sponsored a resolution — up for a vote next month — regarding police and fire training facilities. It urges Neuman to review old studies and also asks for a new study to be completed in time to be used in 2015 budget considerations. That study, councilmen say, should include looking into combining county police and fire training at one site, and sharing facilities with neighboring counties. Fire department officials said they need more and better training facilities, according to the proposal.
Michael Gaines, assistant secretary for real estate at the Department of General Services, said the current idea is to sell the Crownsville building.
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