Joppa residents push for community center, hope to buy former swim site

Joppa residents echoed their desire for a community center and again discussed plans to buy the now-defunct swim club on Joppa Farm Road to make that happen.

Community leaders said at a community council meeting Monday night they hope Harford County can be in a position to buy the property, if Southern Baptist Church does not follow through on its plans to buy it.

The church has been under contract to buy the site. "They didn't even have a 'for sale' sign on the property and when we found out about it, there was already a contract," Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie, who represents the area, said at the meeting.

Several residents said they were not against the church per se, but some also pointed out the church is from Baltimore and does not have roots in Joppatowne.

Guthrie said there are already numerous churches in the area, including two next to the swim club site, and they would all contribute to traffic in the area on Sunday mornings.

Regardless, Guthrie also noted that neighborhoods like Fallston have nice facilities like the Veronica "Roni" Chenowith Activity Center, and "I want to make sure [county officials] spend the same amount of money [in Joppa]."

The contract price on the swim club was $659,000, residents said, although that would not be the full price.

Guthrie said County Council President Billy Boniface was interested in the purchase to use the property for use for high-school swim meets.

Hazel Morgan, president of the Joppatowne Recreation Council, said the council has asked every year for a community center and is always told there is no property available.

She added now the county can buy the property and build that center.

Gloria Moon, a board member of the Joppa Community Council, said the project would be in line with the community's successful efforts to stop the county from building a waste-to-energy facility on the former Plecker golf facility.

"We fought long and hard against Plecker's, and one of the things we kept saying is we need a community center. Why are you discriminating against Joppa?" Moon said.

She said the church's contract is a private affair, but if it were to fall through, "let's do something good for Joppa."

State Dels. Rick Impallaria and Glen Glass, who represent the area, spoke up to say they support the residents, but cannot do anything about the swim club since it is on a county road.

Crime and safety concerns

Capt. Jonathan Krass, of the Harford County Sheriff's Office, said the Southern Precinct continues to focus on area crime, and had a whole unit dedicated to addressing a spate of violence in and around Grempler Way in Edgewood this summer.

"It's a pretty big collaborative effort and our county council as well, they were out there walking and we appreciate that," Krass said, referring to a walk-through county officials did in Edgewood recently.

He said Boniface also went on a police ride-along within the past few days.

Residents, meanwhile, told Krass they have been alarmed by groups of juveniles and young people who have been coming to play basketball at Riverside Elementary School, cursing, intimidating people, throwing trash and potentially buying drugs.

Krass said it is important to report those situations to police, but noted anyone can use a school basketball court because it's public property.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad