More than five years after it was proposed, state officials say a $46 million police training center will be built at Springfield Hospital Center. The Public Safety Training Center, an on-again, off-again project firstxon said. "The state will be making a major investment in this county. There will be more law enforcement officers here than anywhere in the state."
The state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services will build the center on 720 acres deeded from Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville. The project will come before the state legislature in January.
Department Secretary Bishop L. Robinson wrote in a recent letter to Mr. Dixon that he is preparing a budget request for the project.
"There will be no problem getting the approval," said Mr. Dixon, who chairs the Appropriations Committee's Capital Budget Subcommittee.
The training center will serve about 25,000 correctional and law enforcement officers involved in every aspect of police work in the state.
A major part of its funding comes from the $5 fees assessed on every District Court case in the state since 1987. That amounts to more than $4 million a year, said Raymond A. Franklin, project manager. During the next three years, the state will issue bonds to pay for the rest of the project.
The Law Enforcement Driver Training Facility, a $10 million first phase of the overall center, is already approved and set for construction by the end of this year, Mr. Franklin said.
"The state desperately needs a driver training facility," said Leonard Sipes, a spokesman for the public safety and corrections department. "When police and corrections officers receive training, it reduces accidents and saves lives, both in terms of the chaser and those chased."
About 40 instructors will operate the driver training center, which will include classrooms, a dormitory and several courses to simulate driving on highways and on city and rural roads.
"There are 165 police agencies in Maryland, and this course will serve them all," Mr. Franklin said. "Our goal is to reduce law enforcement officers' motor vehicle accidents. The center will improve public safety and reduce accidents, lawsuits and insurance claims."
Emergency vehicle training is a requirement for all law enforcement officers, but the Maryland State Police training center in Pikesville is at capacity, he said, and many other agencies have space constraints.
"Now, much training either doesn't take place or occurs out of state at a higher cost," Mr. Franklin said. "You have officers taking emergency vehicle training on parking lots or at shopping centers."
All local and state officers will be eligible for driver training when the center is complete. The officers will have the use of the larger center, tentatively set to open in spring 1999. It will offer short- and long-term law training to as many as 400 students a day.
To create the Public Safety Training Center, the department will renovate the 14 buildings in the Martin Gross complex, the first buildings constructed on the north end of the hospital campus nearly 100 years ago.
"We are proud that we are coming up with compatible uses for existing historic but unused resources," said Mr. Franklin.
The center will use the original administration building for its offices and convert the wards to classrooms and dormitories. Asbestos and lead removal will cost less than $1.5 million, he said.
"We plan to save every dime we can by using whatever is usable in those buildings," Mr. Franklin said.
When it opens, the Public Safety Training Center will add 14 instructors to the current 40.
"This will be a world-class training center which will bring hundreds of officers to the area every day," Mr. Franklin said. "We are the regulatory agency, and we are responsible for
training all law enforcement officers in every branch. With the center, we will accomplish that in the most efficient ways."