Carroll Troopers, Others Attack Layoffs, Budget Cuts

Governor's Actions Incensing Protesters

October 06, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

State troopers have begun rallying to save their jobs, but many say they wonder if the betrayal they feel will ever be dispelled.

"I felt rejected, betrayed, dehumanized," Tfc. Robert Strucko told a crowd at Reese Fire Hall last week. "I saw 19 years and eight months of my life go right down the drain."

Strucko, a former Westminster trooper, was one of 108 state police employees fired Monday as part of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's plan to cut $450 million from the state budget deficit.

He says things will never be the same for the state police.

"Even if these decisions are reversed, we will never have another day that we will havejob security," Strucko said. It is sentiment shared by many troopers, who say they feel caught in the middle of a political ploy to raisetaxes.

Strucko spoke at one of several forums where troopers, their families and community members gathered to comfort each other and express their fears to Carroll delegates Richard N. Dixon, Richard C.Matthews and Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore.

Almost 500 troopers marched through Annapolis on Wednesday morning to try to persuade the state Board of Public Works to turn down Schaefer's proposal.

Some were back in the state capital Thursday to push legislators to come up with alternatives to the firings. Among the proposalswas a plan to add a 5 percent state sales tax to food purchased at hospital and college cafeterias.

That bill, introduced by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and Sen. William H. Amoss, D-Harford, would produce enough money to reopen two Med-Evac helicopter basesand restore two-thirds of the other trooper jobs.

It does not address the end of Med-Evac service between 3 and 7 a.m., which Carroll emergency officials said could cost lives. Roughly a third of the patients transported statewide last year by the early hour service were "at death's door," a state official said.

Troopers showed up at Martin's Westminster on Thursday to ask business fair speaker and stateComptroller Louis L. Goldstein to reconsider his position. Goldstein, a member of the Board of Public Works, voted for the cuts.

"If we hadn't done it (voted for cuts), we would have lost our credit rating," Goldstein said.

The next day, Moody's Investors' Service, Standard and Poor's Corp., and Fitch Investors Service announced the state will retain its "Triple-A" bond rating. The triple-A rating is thehighest possible and allows the state to borrow money at relatively low rates of interest.

"We've got until Nov. 1 to do something to rectify the situation (avoid trooper layoffs), but I can't increase the budget without a source of revenue," Goldstein said. "We have to ask them (legislators) to consider increasing taxes. If you ask them to consider doing it, they think they are part of a team; if you tell them to do it, they draw back."

Several countians were among the state police employees told last week that their jobs no longer existed. Ten were from the Security and College Park barracks, scheduled toclose Nov. 5; two worked out of the two helicopter bases shut down Monday.

While Crime Prevention and Drug Abuse Resistance Education,or DARE, units elsewhere in the state seemed to be in trouble last week, 1st Sgt. Stephen Reynolds in Westminster said it appears the Carroll programs are safe because they are staffed by officers from the Resident Trooper Program.

But the governor announced Tuesday that the $300,721 of the Resident Trooper Program budget previously paid by the state will have to be picked up by the county if the program isto continue through June 30.

Meeting with the commissioners last week, Westminster's barracks commander, 1st Lt. Kenneth Tregoning, said that could be reduced to $147,000 if the 48 resident troopers cut overtime and fuel costs, and canceled the scheduled purchase of eightnew cars.

If Carroll doesn't come up with the $147,000, six of the 48 troopers could be laid off, Reynolds said.

Under the current contract with the state, the county pays for 75 percent of the resident troopers and the state picks up the balance.

News of the cuts has sparked speculation that the state will no longer pick up its share of the cost of the Resident Trooper Program.

The cost of the entire program would be about $3 million, a pittance compared to the cost of a county police force, said Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman, who opposes creation of a county force.

"There is a lot ofgoofy talk about doing away with the program," he told the Reese fire hall crowd. "A county police chief wants his own crime lab and his own helicopter. It's a bottomless pit."

Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. of Union Bridge, which shares a trooper with New Windsor, said each town pays about $22,000; the state kicks in $9,000.

"If the program is cut . . . we could make up the difference, or hire, train and outfit our own police department," he said.

Jones said it is difficultto hire a qualified police officer and pay enough to keep him in thetown.

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