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Closing 2 police barracks suggested


Annapolis and College Park would lose their Maryland State Police barracks if the General Assembly agrees with a recommendation from legislative analysts to close the two for a savings of $5.2 million as part of a state police cost-cutting plan.

The Department of Legislative Services plan would preserve the 70 trooper and supervisory positions at the barracks, likely redistributing them to some of the 21 other state police locations throughout Maryland.

But Lt. Bud Frank, a state police spokesman, said the department vehemently opposes closing Annapolis and College Park, calling them "major hubs for dealing with homeland security."

"Annapolis is a vital staging point for issues related to the [state] capital," Frank said yesterday, adding that, because of its proximity to Washington, the College Park barracks plays a similar role at a national level.

State police also argue that closing the two barracks would place an excessive burden on other installations, particularly a second Anne Arundel County barracks in Glen Burnie and a second Prince George's County barracks in Forestville.

Another complication, Frank said, is that the two barracks up for closure are the only state police vehicle-service sites in those counties.

Key lawmakers appear to be divided on the recommendation.

Del. Joan Cadden, chairwoman of the House of Delegates subcommittee that oversees the Maryland State Police budget, said the "huge amount of police in the area" would offset any homeland security concerns in Annapolis.

"It's something to take into consideration," Cadden, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, said about the state police argument. "But I don't believe it's a major obstacle."

Officers from the Department of General Services, the Anne Arundel County Police Department and the Annapolis Police Department, as well as state troopers stationed in state buildings around the capital, work out of Annapolis or are located nearby.

However, Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., an Anne Arundel Democrat who chairs the Budget and Taxation Subcommittee on Public Safety, Transportation and the Environment, expressed doubts about the feasibility of the analysts' recommendation.

"It's still on the table now," he said yesterday. "But I suspect it won't be one of the items on the table" when the budget is made final.

Still under debate is the effect the closures would have on day-to-day operations.

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said a small contingent of state police could be accommodated in the $1 million planned expansion of the Annapolis Police Department headquarters on Taylor Avenue.

The expansion is included in Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s proposed fiscal 2004 capital budget.

"It doesn't replace the barracks," Moyer said. "But, should that be closed, we are willing to work with the state police to make other arrangements."

Moyer said city officials recently have had "conversations with state police about that possibility."

Cadden pointed to the early closure of the College Park barracks in 1991 as an example of a successful cost-containment effort. It reopened in 1994.

The Security barracks in Baltimore County, also shut down in 1991, never reopened.

"It worked relatively well," Cadden said of the College Park shutdown. "We did not take troopers out of the area, and everything went fairly smoothly."

But Frank, a road supervisor at the Forestville barracks at the time, said the previous closures had a large impact.

Forestville picked up work - and troopers - left behind when College Park closed.

"What essentially happened is that we had the entire operations for Prince George's County out of one installation," the spokesman said. "It overloaded us with calls for service, and was very taxing on all the people working there."

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