Neall Reveals County Interest In Tipton Airfield

February 27, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

County Executive Robert R. Neall toured Odenton yesterday, visiting everything from blocked-off streets to teen-age mothers continuing their education.

Neall used the opportunity to announce the first tentative steps toward operating Tipton Airport as a county-owned commercial airfield, as well as a $375,000 Army grant for the Sarah's House homeless shelter.

Neall said he found no surprises on his day-long tour. "I pick upa lot just being out and being a part of the landscape," he said.

At Fort Meade, which has lost nearly 9,000 acres to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and is scheduled to lose many troop divisions, Neall heard Col. Kent D. Menser describe the installation as a town.

"This town wants to do more to carry its load in the future," the garrison commander said. He added that many old buildings are scheduled for demolition, a military public affairs school may relocate there and directional signs have been replaced to be more user-friendly.

One of the big questions, he acknowledged, is the future of TiptonArmy Airfield. "What is going to happen with the airfield, I don't know," Menser said.

At a luncheon, Neall announced that the county will begin work on two contracts today, one asking for engineering help to see if county control is feasible and the other seeking an operator for what could be a general aviation facility.

Neall said theFederal Aviation Administration will pay for 90 percent of the study, though the actual cost was not available yesterday.

The county, he said, scored a coup in getting the FAA to limit the scope of the study to restrictions the community -- through the Fort Meade Coordinating Council -- imposed. Those restriction include limiting the airport to 300 small private airplanes and the runway to 3,000 feet.

A consultant to do the master planning study could be picked within three months. The study could take until the end of the year. The countyhopes to make a decision on whether to take over the airport by March 1993.

Neall said he will only agree to take over Tipton if the community concerns are met and if the airport can pay for itself.

"I don't want a widow paying property taxes in Ferndale subsidizing a general aviation airport," he said. "That doesn't make good financialsense. I've got to keep it solvent."

Another announcement came atSarah's House, a 100-bed homeless shelter on Fort Meade, which will be receiving $375,000 from the Army to open up a homeless shelter fordisabled people. "We understand many of these people will be veterans," Neall said.

But Neall also heard some bad news at Sarah's House. Donations are down 12 percent from last year and beds -- both for men and women -- are now full nearly year-round.

"I guess that's the recession," the shelter's director, Mary Lee Bradyhouse, told Neall. "At this point, we're at capacity most of the time. People are willing to give us the shirt off their backs, but they can't give us anymoney."

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