Gov. Parris N. Glendening has yanked funding for a $53 million police training center in Sykesville, dealing what local officials see as a severe blow to economic development efforts in Carroll County.
The center, long slated for unused property at Springfield Hospital Center, would have drawn as many as 700 officers a day to Carroll. A $10 million police driver-training course opened at the site in September and a $5 million police shooting range is under construction. Designs for renovating the buildings for classrooms and dormitories are under way.
"It makes no sense to take a public facility and put it out in the middle of Carroll County," Glendening said in an interview yesterday.
Carroll legislators called the move purely political, a slap at the county for not supporting the Democratic governor's re-election effort.
"We have a governor whose eyes are bigger than the taxpayers' pockets," said Del. Carmen Amedori, a freshman Republican from Westminster. "He will raise our taxes to remove this center, pull the rug from under our feet at all costs. I see this as political Smart Growth."
Amedori said the hospital property adjacent to Sykesville, a town of 3,500, provides the state the land and the buildings for the police facility and an opportunity to expand Carroll's economy.
The governor is not scrapping plans for the center, but has instructed his staff to find another location and prepare a list of suitable sites within 90 days, said Don Vandray, a Glendening spokesman.
"The governor has made it clear that he is pulling this project in this location because it does not meet the criteria for an appropriate location," Vandray said. "He is not killing the project, but he is looking for another location to keep the project on target."
The governor is expected to issue a statement further explaining his rationale, as soon as today, Vandray said.
"I am sure we will hear a lot of screaming about this, but it's the right thing," Glendening said.
Last fall, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend pledged $16 million to keep the police center on track when she attended the driver-training course dedication.
The final phase of the police facility had called for renovation of century-old vacant hospital buildings into classrooms, offices and dormitories that could serve as many as 700 officers a day training in all aspects of law enforcement.
The center has been a long-term project of state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, a former Carroll County delegate, and the late Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, who favored using existing buildings over spending on new construction.
Glendening noted Carroll's lackluster efforts at Smart Growth, the governor's 1997 initiative to discourage sprawl by providing state aid for development in and around existing communities.
"We are cutting some programs from the budget because they are not consistent with smart growth," he said, adding that some counties have not made a "good-faith effort" to implement the plan.
"Carroll County has not been very forceful in dealing with sprawl," said Glendening. "We have got to stop the sprawl."
Smart Growth has been touted as a model for other states aiming to curtail rampant development. The initiative is becoming a national cause; Vice President Al Gore spoke on anti-sprawl measures last week. But Glendening complained that there are still some Maryland counties that "have not bought into the program."
Del. Joseph M. Getty, a second-term Republican from Carroll County, said Smart Growth will hurt all the rural counties, because "it allows Glendening to send funds to areas where he was supported."
Carroll's all-Republican delegation "anticipated some direct hits from Glendening," said Getty. The delegation will schedule a meeting with Dixon to try to salvage the project, Getty said.
Pub Date: 1/19/99