The Carroll County commissioners have decided that a 40-acre site on McKinstry's Mill Road in Linwood, donated by Lehigh Cement Company last fall, will be the location of a new fire training center, said Steve Powell, county chief of staff.
Letters have been sent to Linwood area residents notifying them of a meeting with the county and Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association about the facility.
The meeting will be at 7 p.m. May 8 at the Union Bridge fire hall, 8 W. Locust St.
"We want to work with the community and make sure we are as good a neighbor as possible," Powell said. "We'll bring our building construction folks and CCVESA, and we will bring a topography map."
The topography map will give residents a better look at how the training center will be situated in relation to the community, Powell said.
"I want to lay this out and what it is that we can do to make this blend in with the community -- design, screening, hours of operation," Powell said. "If there's any classes Sunday morning, it has to be [in the] classroom."
Shortly after Lehigh announced that it had all the required signatures needed to donate the land to the county, the commissioners, their staff and the association held a community meeting at Linwood Brethren Church to describe plans for the training center.
About 30 residents attended that meeting, where they voiced concerns about traffic volume on the narrow, winding McKinstry's Mill Road; noise from large-sized fire equipment; needed improvements to infrastructure to handle the facility; and the effects on an adjacent dairy farm.
Residents suggested putting the facility in a more industrial area, and Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said last week the county had looked at other sites as well.
"There were two or three other locations," Gouge said. "But I was told they wouldn't work for certain reasons. Other sites have been looked at at this point, but the one at Linwood has been favored by the majority of the board."
Gouge said she was aware of the community's concerns, but noted that "a lot of misinformation has been given to the people of Linwood, which is unfortunate."
For instance, she heard that there would be a 200-car parking lot and a six-story building.
"A 200 car parking lot is not in the equation at all, and the reality is that we haven't even started the plans that have been put down, as a qualified drawing plan," she said.
Scott Campbell, director of the Office of Public Safety Support Services, said the concept drawing on the county's Web site regarding the training center, is just that, a concept.
"There was a concept plan I did to show how the land could conceptually be used," Campbell said, "but it's strictly a concept. It may look nothing like that in the end."
Even though the commissioners have decided to move forward with the center, "It doesn't mean we will move in there, it just means we can go ahead with testing and studies [soil, core drilling, environment, etc.] before the land can be developed," Campbell said.
Commissioner Dean Minnich said he visited Linwood when the idea of the project came up.
"I visited residents and the site last fall before the Oct. 30 meeting, and they showed me the location where it was from their houses and the church," Minnich said. "From that, I am comfortable with my belief that the center is not going to be the bad neighbor people think it will be, especially when you think of other purposes it [the land] could be used for."
Richard Green Sr., association president, said he was pleased with the commissioners' decision.
"I can say that CCVESA was unanimous in its support of placing the center there," Green said. "We are willing to work with the community to work through their fears and concerns, especially concerning traffic, to make it much more palatable."
He, too, stressed that they "want to be good neighbors" by working with residents to put in a center "that will be more presentable to the community."
Besides the required studies and tests on the land, the facility has to go through the county's planning process.
Details on these processes and a possible timeline will be given at the May 8 meeting, Powell said.