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Schaefer backs center's location; Law enforcement facility should stay in Carroll, he says; 'You keep your promises'


State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer toured the partially completed Law Enforcement Training Center in Sykesville recently and added his name to the growing list of those opposed to moving the last phase of the project from Carroll County.

A state decision to build the center -- which would eventually cost $53 million -- on property once part of Springfield Hospital Center came 10 years ago during Schaefer's first term as governor.

After touring the site Feb. 6 with state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, Schaefer said he remains committed to the location.

"I have not changed my mind," said Schaefer. "We supported it at that time. The Sykesville site is not wrong today. I don't see anything wrong with it."

Schaefer visited the driving training course and shooting range, and the aging buildings that would be restored for the academic part of the project.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening scrapped the restoration phase -- classrooms, dormitories and offices -- last month, saying it did not meet his Smart Growth legislation to control sprawl by directing development to existing communities.

Schaefer said the governor's staff has shown him several possible sites in Baltimore for the academic phase, but he has not seen any that would change his mind.

"There are good sites in Baltimore City, but you can't stop everything once you have made a commitment, and [Glendening] made a commitment to Sykesville," he said. "That is a promise, and you keep your promises."

Schaefer and Dixon, who decide on land acquisition with the governor as members of the state Board of Public Works, have said they would vote against funding land for another site.

"It has to come before the board, and I am not voting for any change," said Dixon. "Whenever it comes before the board, it will die there."

That opposition could "box in the governor as far as relocating," said Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Manchester Republican. "It does not guarantee the center will be completed in Sykesville, but Glendening will either have to change his mind or he won't have a center."

When the Sykesville center was dedicated two years ago, Glendening gave it his blessing, calling it "a wonderful asset." But last month, he scrapped the remaining phase.

"This project did not conform to Smart Growth," said Don Vandrey, spokesman for the governor. "It will not receive state funding."

Glendening's staff is looking for alternative sites, but no decision is imminent, Vandrey said. Nothing will alter the governor's stance, said Vandrey.

Nearly $20 million has been spent on the firing range, driver training course and preliminary design for renovating the vacant hospital wards. Glendening has given his staff three months to find another location for the academic phase.

"Smart Growth started with my administration," said Schaefer. "He picked it up from us and ran with it. It is a good thing that can be used to stop development or to help selective development."

The legislative staff of the General Assembly ignored the governor's views last week and recommended to both the House and Senate budget committees that the center be kept in Sykesville. Legislators would approve $4.2 million for the center "so long as it is used to continue" the project in Sykesville, the staff said.

"Funds may only be expended for design, planning, site work, construction and equipment for the Public Safety Training Center located at the Martin Gross Complex adjacent to the Springfield Hospital Center in Carroll County, Maryland in accordance with the approved program plan," the staff report said.

The budget committees generally accept such recommendations, said Getty.

"The fact that this is a staff recommendation is a big victory for Carroll County," said Getty. "This is not the Carroll County delegation pleading."

Carroll legislators have fought the governor's decision and have rallied bipartisan support for keeping the center in the county.

"With the commitment of two members of the Board of Public Works and the support of the Maryland General Assembly, we have had a lot to boost our confidence," said Getty. "All these activities confirm what a bone-headed idea it was to move it in the first place."

Pub Date: 2/16/99

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