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Barracks temporarily relocated


Troopers from the 56-year-old Bel Air barracks in Benson began moving to temporary headquarters at the Fallston Mall on Friday.

The move paves the way for construction of a new facility and will not affect law enforcement services, barracks commander Lt. Earl Bredenburg said.

He said the relocation, from Benson at Belair and Harford roads to the Fallston Mall at Belair Road and Route 152, will be completed tomorrow.

The Bel Air barracks, the oldest in Maryland, are scheduled for demolition in August. The new facility at the same Benson site is expected to be completed in August or September 1996, Lieutenant Bredenburg said.

The old barracks garage, where the patrol cruisers are repaired, will be open, he said. The radio tower also will remain in use.

The new facility will have about 10,800 square feet on one level, which is slightly smaller but more functional than the space in the old barracks, Lieutenant Bredenburg said.

Flooding and crowding were the main problems in the old building.

"The building sits on top of a natural spring, and our Criminal Investigation Division, which is located in the basement, has had 2 to 3 inches of water on the floor many times over the years," he said.

The new facility will have a Colonial Williamsburg architectural look with a two-story appearance, even though it will be a one-story structure, the lieutenant said.

"And the colonnade front with wide brick steps will be wheelchair accessible, something we haven't had at the old barracks," he said.

The new facility, Lieutenant Bredenburg said, will have an assembly room off the main lobby. "Public groups can use the room in the evenings for meetings without coming into contact with prisoners," he said.

It will also have dormitories for males and females where troopers can sleep overnight if necessary.

The old barracks are cramped, especially in the troopers' room where reports often are written. Space is limited to two desks and two chairs with one telephone and one electric typewriter.

The new facility will provide about four times that space for the 35 troopers assigned to the Bel Air barracks, the lieutenant said.

The temporary location at the mall has some drawbacks.

"There are no cells for locking up prisoners, so we'll move them in and out rather quickly," he said. Unruly prisoners will be handcuffed to a device anchored to the floor.

The relocation will not occur without some sadness, especially for Cpl. John C. Bowman, a road supervisor who first was assigned to the Bel Air barracks in 1971.

"I have worked here about 22 of the nearly 25 years," Corporal Bowman said. "When the barracks first opened, the troopers used to respond to traffic accidents in an old hearse, and later in a bread truck."

If someone was hurt, the troopers would lay the victim in the back and drive to the hospital in Havre de Grace, he said.

Corporal Bowman also recalled when Bel Air troopers patrolled to Essex in Baltimore County.

"We've had lots of laughs, too," he said.

"First Sgt. J. D. Thomas is an avid bow hunter, so one of the troopers put a fully stuffed deer in his office to greet him the day he returned from a hunting trip without getting a deer."

Anticipating last night's ceremony to lower the flag in front of the old barracks for the final time, Lieutenant Bredenburg and his first sergeant said Friday that those attending would be sharing in the end of an era in Maryland State Police history.

The move is only about one mile, but Lieutenant Bredenburg expressed concern that residents will be unable to find the temporary quarters.

"State and mall signs are in place and will be unveiled," he said, "but we still want everyone to know that they can find us opposite Palm's Pizza at the back of the Fallston Mall."

The public often stops at the barracks, he said. Prospective teachers or day-care center employees, for example, need to be fingerprinted when applying for jobs. Drivers who receive vehicle repair orders stop to have the repairs validated.

Some citizens find suspected narcotics and walk in to turn in the drugs.

Public access to the new headquarters can be gained from either Belair Road or Route 152, but the public is urged to park behind the mall, enter the courtyard and look for the Maryland State Police logo, the lieutenant said.

The telephone numbers -- (410) 879-2101 or (410) 838-4101 -- and the mailing address, 1401 Belair Road, Bel Air 21014, will remain the same, he said.

"Of course, for emergencies, it's best to call 911," Lieutenant Bredenburg said.

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