The Carroll County delegation is delaying the county's $19 million bond authorization request for capital improvement projects after an item on relocating some of the sheriff's services caught the eye of Sen. Larry E. Haines.
The delegation leader is questioning whether the item is related to a Dec. 4 letter written by the county commissioners to the Maryland State Police. The correspondence said that the three officials want to begin discussions to "start transitioning the resident trooper services from the state to the sheriff's office."
Last week, the seven-member Republican delegation decided to wait until after they meet with state police officials before submitting the bond authorization to the General Assembly.
Meanwhile, county Chief of Staff Steven D. Powell is scheduled to meet today at the Westminster barracks with state police and sheriff's officials, including acting state police Superintendent Thomas E. Hutchins, Westminster barracks commander Capt. Scott Yinger and Carroll Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning.
They are expected to discuss the future of the resident trooper program, which is Carroll's main law enforcement service, and overall policing efforts in the county.
Carroll's resident trooper program began in 1974 and has 51 troopers. Forty-six are assigned to patrol the county, including one who works part-time in New Windsor. The other five are in Mount Airy.
The commissioners are questioning whether the state program is the most cost-effective and viable law enforcement agency as the county continues to grow. The commissioners say they are acting on indications by state police that the trooper program would not meet the county's expanding policing needs.
During last week's meeting in Annapolis, members of the delegation said they need more information and need to know the reasons behind the $4.2 million bond authorization request to relocate some of the sheriff's services to the former New Windsor Middle School.
The money would be used to rebuild the infrastructure of the 60,000-square-foot school building, and the Sheriff's Office would occupy a portion of the facility, Powell said.
The sheriff's administrative and patrol functions would relocate from the bottom floor of the Carroll County Detention Center in Westminster to the old school building, Tregoning said. Other services, including the domestic and child abuse units, would stay at the detention center, he said.
Tregoning said his department needs room to grow. In the last four years, the Sheriff's Office has increased from 45 to 64 deputies and other staff members, Tregoning said.
"Quite frankly, the space we occupy has been modified so many times, it just can't be modified any more," he said yesterday.
But a few delegation members, including Haines and Del. Carmen Amedori, said they don't want to see the county's primary policing efforts turned over to the Sheriff's Office, in part because of the cost associated with expanding that department.
"If the Sheriff's Office is going to go full-throttle, that'll be a heavier tax burden," Amedori said.
The county is paying $4.48 million for the trooper program this year, while it pays half as much for the Sheriff's Office.
Others said they want to closely monitor the situation. Haines said he plans to meet with state officials soon after today's meeting.
Tregoning and county officials said the request for the sheriff's relocation has nothing to do with the issue of the resident trooper program.
Powell said the county is looking ahead as the inmate population grows at the detention center. The area that would be emptied by the relocation of the sheriff's administrative, and patrol functions could be converted into space for the jail's low-security area and work-release program, he said.
Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said last week that the board has talked about expanding the Sheriff's Office as the department has increased its services and hired more deputies.
Instead of buying land, Gouge said the commissioners wanted to find the most economical solution.
The delegation "never asked us questions [about this] in the past. I don't know why all of a sudden it's an issue," Gouge said.
The remaining $15 million in bonds would help pay for public works projects, land preservation and to add more parking at the Westminster Senior Activities Center.