County on track to handle BRAC

The Baltimore Sun

Harford County is on pace with its preparations for BRAC, the nationwide military base expansion set for a 2011 completion at Aberdeen Proving Ground, officials have said.

"The planning has been excellent. It comes down to implementation," Harford County Executive David R. Craig said at a community briefing Thursday night at Havre de Grace High School.

The military project will bring about 20,000 new jobs to Harford by 2011. The influx - as many as 40,000 people - Craig estimated, will require new schools, roads, housing and infrastructure. Much of the expansion will take place on or around Aberdeen Proving Ground, the military base where many of the new jobs will be based.

At the meeting, officials detailed a range of projects, some already under way, some still in the planning stages. The event was the fourth town hall meeting over the past two years designed to inform the public on BRAC-related projects.

Speaking to about three dozen people, J. Thomas Sadowski, president of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, said the county and town governments were working together to create a water authority to oversee allocation of water to various counties, including Harford.

He also noted that the Harford County Council is in the midst of adapting the county's zoning rules to allow for increased BRAC-related building.

The county is planning to spend $400 million on a solid waste treatment plant and $70 million on a plan to double water filtration capacity.

Col. Jeffrey S. Weissman, commander of Aberdeen Proving Ground, noted that the base will also be losing some jobs.

The largest loss: The Ordnance Center and School, accounting for 4,000 jobs, will be heading to Fort Lee, Va. The largest gain will be Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, also known as C4ISR, which will bring 7,000 jobs to APG. The C4ISR headquarters building is more than half complete, he said. The building, 1.5 million square feet, will be finished in December 2010.

Weissman said the Army is spending $1.5 billion on various APG projects. Key among them are several projects to improve the quality of life on the base, he said, including renovations to the golf course, the gym and bowling alley. The base is building a new child development center, which will double child care services.

To ensure that there is space for incoming children and to help provide industries with properly trained employees, the Harford schools are expanding, and altering curriculum as well, said Jacqueline C. Haas, superintendent of Harford County Public Schools. Overall, the schools are spending about $150 million on a range of improvements, she said.

So far, the school system has rolled out magnet programs, including the Science and Mathematics Academy at Aberdeen High School, the Global Studies Program/International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at Edgewood High School and Harford Technical High School. Joppatowne High School has a Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Program, and Bel Air High School has started a Medical Science Program.

James LaCalle, president of Harford Community College, told listeners about his institution's partnerships with the Johns Hopkins University, the College of Notre Dame and Towson University, to create educational programs tailored to the needs of new and expanding Harford County employers.

Harford County Sheriff Jesse L. Bane described plans for an expanded Harford County Detention Center, as well as a new Southern Precinct. The first project, which will add almost 300 beds to the facility, will begin next week; the new precinct will begin next summer. Bane also mentioned that a new precinct might eventually be needed in the southeastern corner of the county.

Robert B. Cooper, director of public works for the county, said Harford would improve and expand six intersections. The projects have received almost $10 million in funding so far, he said. Five of the six are in the planning stages; one, the junction of Route 715 and U.S. 40, will begin in 2010.

"Things are changing on the base, and they're changing rapidly," said James C. Richardson, executive director of the Harford County Office of Economic Development. He said that last week his office conducted a bus tour for 1,300 employees from Fort Monmouth, N.J. - a base from which many Harford BRAC jobs are coming.

Craig and others emphasized that BRAC has begun. More than 200 new workers have started BRAC-related jobs in the county.

Craig said he wasn't worried that BRAC would overwhelm Harford.

"The county has been a growth county for 18 years," he said. "There's been bigger growth in the past."

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