Havre de Grace council approves joining police SWAT team with other towns

The Havre de Grace City Council adopted a resolution Monday allowing the city police force to form a joint SWAT team the police in Aberdeen and Bel Air.

The action was the most definitive thus far from any of the three Harford County municipalities concerning the joint special operations proposal. Aberdeen's Police Department initiated the proposal, but has yet to receive an official go-ahead from the mayor and city council. Bel Air's Board of Town Commissioners discussed the proposal last week but agreed it needs more study.

"This poses to be a win-win for all affected parties in providing sufficient law enforcement resources in emergency-type situations," said Councilman David Glenn, who introduced the resolution.

Councilman Joe Smith asked Capt. Wayne Young, the city's deputy police chief, to provide background about the issues that prompted the resolution.

Young said the department would use such an outside SWAT team to execute search and seizure warrants under "exigent" circumstances, mostly for cases involving narcotics and/or weapons.

"Those SWAT members are trained on dynamic entry, which is particularly what you would see with forcing doors, and they have additional equipment and tactics for doing those types of entries," Young said, adding that Havre de Grace, in his estimation, has been using Aberdeen's SWAT team "about 99 percent" of the time since it was formed eight or nine years ago.

"What we found is that by combining efforts with the municipalities, adding Bel Air and Havre de Grace, we would have more than an adequate number of qualified operators so that we could assist each other," Young explained.

"We feel that it's in the best interests of the citizens by combining efforts, if you will," he continued. "By putting these teams together we are actually getting more qualified operators to work for better services."

Smith asked if there would be any increase in staffing or other additions to Havre de Grace's police budget. Young replied there would be no increase in staff; however, but there would some personal equipment and ammunition additions for those who join the new team.

Other costs, such as entry equipment and specialized equipment that "may be too expensive for one agency to purchase on their own" would be divided between the three municipalities, Young said.

Mayor Wayne Dougherty welcomed the change. "Calling on all the resources from one agency is really overtaxing in the number of personnel that are needed," he said.

"It really saves money and provides a great service of safety to all our citizens," Dougherty said. The resolution passed unanimously.

Maritime Museum support

The city council also voted 4-0 to support the creation of an environmental center at the city's Maritime Museum.

The center would establish displays, exhibits, laboratory benches, and sampling and collection stations to educate as part of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs, Councilman Fred Cullum explained.

"I wish them great success with this program," Dougherty said. "It's certainly needed, and I know they have some sponsors and benefactors set up, so they are moving in a very positive direction and also I couldn't think of a better place for it than the maritime museum."

"Council member Cullum, council member [John] Correri will remember this. The director at the time was Brenda Guldenzopf, and this was one of her objectives that she had in her five- or 10-year plan for the museum," Dougherty added.

In addition to working for the museum, Mrs. Guldenzopf, who died in July 2010, was a member of the city council, elected on her first try for public office in May 2009. She was still serving on the council when she died.

"So, I know Brenda's looking down and smiling right now that this resolution's going to be adopted, and they'll continue their great work that they're doing at the maritime museum," Dougherty said.

The museum's board requested the city's expression of support, board president Bruce Russell explained Wednesday.

"We are soliciting the financial and technical support of one or two large corporations and felt the resolution would be a good expression of our community-wide support," Russell said.

The museum hopes to use its 3,200 square foot ground floor for the new center, installing classrooms and lab benches and other facilities for environmental education, research and related activities," Russell said. Target groups would be children and young adults, hence the STEM emphasis.

Russell said the museum board feels there is a need for an community environmental education and study center "in this corner of the county."

Appointments, other business

The appointments of J.W. Walker to the Street and Traffic Safety Advisory Board and George Deibel to the Board of Election Supervisors were both unanimously approved. Walker's term runs to July 15, 2016, while Deibel's will end on July 15, 2019.

Director of Finance George DeHority announced the city's new water and sewer billing system is in operation. Any slight increase customers may see in the amount billed is a result of the meter reading being a few days later than usual during conversion to the new system, he explained.

Acting Director of Administration Jim Newby reported the city had received its first $20,000 for the extension of the Promenade north of Concord Point from the Maryland Heritage Authority. Newby also reported installation of security cameras has begun in Tydings Park.

Newby also passed out an information packet regarding the schedule of Amtrak construction, noting the work would be mostly on railroad property. He said the schedule will also be posted online.

Dougherty mentioned a large amount of complaints have been received regarding boat trailers causing traffic issues at the yacht basin. Dougherty said that boat trailers weren't using the spots allotted to them and parking bumpers are being installed and marked "no trailers" to solve the problem.

Council President Randy Craig and Councilman Bill Martin did not attend Monday's meeting. They had a conflicting event, Dougherty said.

ting. They had a conflicting event, Dougherty said.

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