Tour of juvenile facility unconvincing for 2 residents SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

February 17, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

State Juvenile Services officials hoped that a look at detention facilities in other counties might end South Carroll residents' opposition to a proposed center on the grounds of Springfield Hospital Center.

No chance. Only two residents showed up to visit a juvenile center in Montgomery County.

And the tour didn't change their minds.

"I wanted them to see the situation firsthand and not just have them listen to a bureaucrat selling something," said Harry Langmead, Maryland Juvenile Services executive director of field services.

After the tour of the Noyes Detention Center in Rockville, both Darlene Eichelman and Angela Lee said they remain opposed to the $5.5 million renovation of Springfield's Lane Building into a 74-bed detention center.

"We went back and forth with our concerns," said Mr. Langmead. "Their minds were made up, though. Nothing they saw at Noyes changed their opinions."

"It was like comparing apples to oranges," said Ms. Eichelman, of Melstone Valley. "Noyes was planned and built for detention purposes. Given the limitations of the Lane Building [at Springfield], it would be quite different."

The Noyes facility, which opened in 1977, is surrounded by an industrial center and is "not right outside somebody's back door," said Ms. Lee of Sykesville.

The Lane Building on Route 32 is within minutes of four schools and hundreds of homes. Maintaining security in a county without a police force causes residents the greatest concern, she said.

"For any incident at Noyes, they can have 20 police officers there in two minutes," said Ms. Lee. "At Springfield, we might not have two in 20 minutes."

"We just don't have enough protection here," said Ms. Eichelman, who also expressed concern about overcrowding.

Noyes, a 30-bed facility, is housing 58 youths, who range in age from 13 to 18.

"Where is the cap?" said Ms. Eichelman. "If we have a 74-bed center, how many juveniles will we have here?"

Mr. Langmead, a former Noyes superintendent, said he doesn't know how to respond to hypothetical situations. "We showed a well-run impressive program, where there have been no escapes since 1989," he said.

"Mr. Langmead is well informed, but I still have real reservations," said Ms. Lee.

Montgomery County subsidizes Noyes with education and recreation programs, said Ms. Eichelman.

"Businesses donate materials, crafts people offer classes and volunteers challenge them with enrichment programs," she said.

"That is not going to happen in Carroll. We don't have the money to do that. The only stimulation kids would have here is how to get out."

Mr. Langmead issued the invitation at a meeting of Carrolltowne residents last month. The 250-home development surrounds the Sykesville center.

"I offered to show them any of the state's detention centers," he said.

Mr. Langmead said the self-contained, one-building Noyes Center is similar to what the state is proposing for the Lane Building at Springfield.

Mary Ann Saar, state juvenile service secretary, met with county officials and residents last month to discuss using Lane to house juveniles awaiting trials.

She recently told members of the South Carroll Coalition that her department is reviewing other options for Area II, which serves Carroll, Harford and Baltimore counties.

"We have to find a place to house these youths soon," said Mr. Langmead.

"The longer we wait the worse the problem becomes. Lane remains the most efficient option."

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