Carroll legislators vowed yesterday to fight the governor's decision to move a $53 million police training center from the county.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening said Monday that the Carroll site in Sykesville, on state property once part of the Springfield Hospital Center, does not comply with Smart Growth, his 1997 initiative to discourage sprawl by providing state aid for development in and around existing communities.
Although the state has spent more than $10 million for architecture and design work on vacant hospital buildings that were to be renovated into classrooms, dormitories and offices, the governor has asked his staff to find another site.
Ultimately, the decision to fund a different site rests with the state Board of Public Works, a three-member board that includes the governor, Treasurer Richard N. Dixon and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer.
The center, which was planned 10 years ago when Schaefer was governor and Dixon was a Carroll delegate, has long been favored by both.
"That support could be used as leverage at this point in the process," said Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Manchester Republican.
Dixon would not comment about the governor's decision yesterday, other than to say he was disappointed and shocked. Schaefer could not be reached.
The center would still be built, but at a different location chosen from a list submitted by a newly appointed search committee.
Baltimore County officials contacted state police at the Pikesville headquarters yesterday to see how much land might be required for the training facility and to see if a site can be found in the county.
Michael H. Davis, a spokesman for County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, said no one in the county was lobbying Glendening to change his mind and that county officials only learned about the decision when they read about it in The Sun yesterday.
"The governor believes we will find a new site for the center and keep it on schedule for a 2002 opening," said Don Vandray, a Glendening spokesman.
Under Smart Growth, new state facilities must be built in economically distressed areas, Vandray said.
Sen. Larry E. Haines, leader of Carroll's all-Republican delegation, predicted that neither Dixon nor Schaefer will withdraw support for completing the center in Carroll.
"It was Schaefer's initiative in the beginning and Dixon's support which brought the center here," said Haines. "I am certain we can convince them to continue their support."
Carroll legislators plan to meet with the Board of Public Works and to lobby the legislature on their cause.
"We want all members of the legislature to look at this issue and to follow through on completion of the Schaefer initiative," said Haines. "No other state-owned property is so centrally located for this facility."
Sykesville is within a few miles of Interstate 70 and near Howard and Montgomery counties.
In scrapping the Springfield hospital site, the governor has "reneged on his own position and on a big investment," Haines said.
Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale of Westminster said planning for the training center occurred long before Smart Growth took effect.
"The governor grandfathered many highway projects, planned long before Smart Growth was enacted," she said. "This project has been planned for 10 years; millions have been spent. It should also be grandfathered."
Haines called the decision "100 percent political," and said it may be retribution for Carroll's refusal to support Smart Growth legislation two years ago.
"I saw Smart Growth as a method for the governor to disburse money where he could get the most votes," said Stocksdale. "I argued against it vehemently because it was a means to take away personal property rights. Now the governor is talking about buying more property, taking it off the tax books."
Commissioners to act
The Carroll County commissioners also will work to keep the center in Sykesville.
"Sykesville is certainly what I thought of as a Smart Growth area," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "There is always a chance we can change the governor's mind.
Jonathan S. Herman, the mayor of Sykesville, a town of 3,500 residents that would be adjacent to the center, said he is writing to the governor to express his concern.
"It does not make economic sense to move the center, when the state already has land and buildings here," Herman said. "If Smart Growth is truly the issue, there are ways to remedy that."
Annexation would be one possibility.
The town, which has a record of well-planned development, expects to annex another portion of the hospital property and renovate 15 aging buildings into an employment campus. The proposition goes to referendum Feb. 17.
Dell said the governor's comments on Carroll sprawl disappointed him. He would like Glendening to fly over the county to see what it has accomplished.
State 'copied' the county
"The state really copied Smart Growth from Carroll County," Dell said. "Just look at our [agricultural] preservation. It is the best in the nation. I don't understand the governor's logic."
The center was to occupy about 70 of the 800 acres transferred to public safety from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene several years ago.
A $10 million driver training course opened in September. A $5 million shooting range will open in August.
Renovation of the buildings was set to begin soon.
700 officers a day
At its completion, the center would serve as many as 700 officers a day in all aspects of law enforcement training and would employ about 100.
Officers in all branches of police throughout the state would be eligible for the training programs.
"The original purpose was to have a consolidated training facility with all the resources in one spot," said Getty. "Now, we will have students commuting to different programs. What kind of smart growth is that?
"The governor is twisting and turning components to his advantage. This is not a planning issue but a political issue."
Since the General Assembly opened its session last week, its theme has been "One Maryland."
"The message we are getting is we aren't one Maryland," said Getty. "We are Parris Glendening's Maryland, and if we are not part of that, we won't get our projects."
Pub Date: 1/20/99