State and county officials said Friday they are concerned about a proposal by General Assembly leaders to defer construction of a Public Safety Training Center in Sykesville as part of a plan to avoid laying off state workers.

By postponing the project, legislators have estimated they could save $12 million from this year's budget.

The proposal is part of a list of programs and projects in state government that could be trimmed as an alternative to putting as many as 1,800 state workers in unemployment lines. The plan was drawn up by William S. Ratchford II, director of the legislature's Department of Fiscal Services.

Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, said the center would benefit the county in many ways, including helping small businesses in the area and training municipal police.

He said Friday that while he was reluctant to comment on the proposal, he would hope that any budget cuts would include the elimination of lesser-priority programs.

"I'm for law enforcement," said Matthews, chairman of the Carroll delegation. "Unless they cut a lot of programs that I consider waste, I would not want to go along with postponing this plan."

The $40 million training center would be located on 720 acres of state-owned land adjacent to the Springfield Hospital Center.

The training center would be used for comprehensive instruction of state and local law enforcement officers from across Maryland, including the state police, said Leonard Sipes, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

The training complex would include classrooms, dormitories, a driver-training course and a firing range. It would employ more than 100 workers and train 700 to 800 officers daily.

Sipes said Bishop Robinson, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, wants to make the training of officers a priority in the state.

"He has said the quality of the training of officers is directly related to the quality of law enforcement," said Sipes. "We have been hoping and planning to construct this training academy in the Sykesville area."

Sipes said the money for the project, which was scheduled to be operating by 1993, comes from criminal and traffic fines collected in the state's district courts.

There were at least two other plans for the Sykesville site, including a 1,000-bed medium-security prison and a low-yield hazardous waste dump.

Carroll officials preferred the academy plan.

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