Schaefer's Proposed Cuts Anger Workers, Officials

For Fired State Troopers, Shock And A Sense Of Betrayal

October 02, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

Sgt. Eric Danz says he's upset and confused about being fired by the governor, but most of all he feels used.

The 32-year-old state police sergeant from Finksburg has been on the force since he turned 18, first as a cadet making $6,800 a year and then as a trooper in Montgomery and Charles counties.

A recent promotion sent him to the Security barracks in Woodlawn, Baltimore County, one of the two police installations set to close Nov. 5 if Gov. William Donald Schaefer's drastic budget reduction plan, announced Tuesday, takes effect.

"We feel like we are being used by the governor," said Danz, one of the 83 officers to be laid off. "We are all trying to understand the need for the cuts, but we were never given any options. I think most of us would be willing to give some things up to keep our jobs."

Danz is one of several Carroll residents who work in law enforcement, emergency services or correctional services scheduled to lose their jobs as part of $450 million in state budget cuts.

In addition to the closing of Security -- which employs eight Carroll residents -- the governor's plan also calls forthe November closing of the College Park barracks in Prince George'sCounty.

Two Carroll residents work at the College Park barracks, but they were told their jobs were safe as of late yesterday, said Cpl. Thomas Lewis. Lewis, who lives in Finksburg, says he would be the next to go at the barracks if more cuts are ordered.

The governor also called for the dismissal of the 103rd state police training academy class, scheduled to graduate in December. Of the 29 students in that 26-week class, four were county residents, an academy spokesman said.

It remained unclear late yesterday how proposed 25 percent cuts in state aid to local governments would affect the 48 resident troopers stationed in Westminster.

The governor has asked the county to pay an extra $300,000 to carry the Resident Trooper Program through June. Under the current system, the state pays 25 percent of the cost of each of the resident troopers, and the county pays the balance.

First Lt. Kenneth L. Tregoning, commander of the Westminster barracks, met with the county commissioners yesterday afternoon to propose ways to reduce program costs, including delaying the purchase of new police cruisers and cutting overtime.

There has been no announcement of layoffs at the Westminster barracks.

Of all of the orderedcuts, the one that might concern county residents most is the immediate closing of the state police Medevac helicopter units in Montgomery County and the Eastern Shore and the grounding of the six remainingunits from 3 to 7 a.m. daily.

Police and emergency services officials say they worry that such a move will save money but cost lives.

"It offers no solace to a family that has a serious car accident at 4 a.m.," said state police spokesman Chuck Jackson.

Kevin Utz, a flight paramedic in the Frederick helicopter unit and a volunteer at the Westminster Fire Department, said Carroll will be among the hardest hit by the cuts because the closest trauma unit is almost an hour away by ambulance, but 15 minutes away by helicopter.

"Those minutes do count," said Utz, who added that the helicopters also are usedin apprehending suspects and finding lost children.

Dr. Michael Stang, head of emergency medicine at Carroll County General Hospital, said county residents should not be overly concerned about the early morning grounding because all emergency room personnel at the hospital have been certified by the Maryland Shock Trauma Unit at University Medical Center in Baltimore to stabilize patients and begin treatment.

In addition to the state police cuts, all educational and vocational training, recreational programs and social work services for state prison inmates would also be slashed, said Len Sipes, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Those cuts will apply to inmates at the Sykesville Laundry Camp, Sipes said.

Danz and other county residents affected by the cuts in police

and emergency services speculated that the governor's announcement is a political ploy designed to force unwilling legislators to raise taxes.

And while Danz said he believes some of the layoffs may be rescinded, that has proved to be little comfort to a young family facing mortgage payments on a new house and the April birth of a second child.

"This couldn't have come at a worse time," said Danz, whose wife, Erin, is an assistant state's attorney in Carroll.

Danz and 1st Sgt. Stephen Reynolds of the state police in Westminster said the announcement of the layoffs has had a detrimental affect on all state troopers, not just the ones who lost their jobs.

"Everybody is just kind of dazed," said Reynolds. "This is totally unprecedented."

Danz said he doesn't think any of the troopers will feel the same way about their jobs again.

"There was a dedication that was there. That's not going to be there any more," he said.

Troopers in Carroll and across the state were set to rally this morning at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis for a march to the 10 a.m. meeting of the state Board of Public Works. The board is scheduledto vote on the governor's proposal to fire the troopers.

The Carroll chapter of the Maryland Troopers Association is scheduled to meetto discuss the layoffs at Reese Volunteer Fire Company at 7 tonight.

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