Prison camp plan riles Fort Meade neighbors WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

June 23, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

More than 200 people who live near Fort Meade told Army officials last night that they vehemently oppose a state proposal to move the Herman L. Toulson Correctional Boot Camp to the post.

Many residents of the new Seven Oaks community said relocating the prison camp from Jessup to Fort Meade in Odenton brings it too close to homes, schools and parks, both on and off the military post.

"My husband and I just moved to Seven Oaks a few months ago," said Jeanne VonErden. "The first thing we are getting besides curtains is an alarm system, and it's frustrating."

The garrison commander, Col. Kent D. Menser, told the residents that no decision has been made. He said a transcript of last night's meeting will be included in the final report.

"What you are doing right now has a tremendous impact on our study," Colonel Menser said. "We are in the study phase."

The colonel said he will make a recommendation on the proposal before he retires a week from today. If he decides in favor of the boot camp, the proposal next goes to Lt. Gen. James H. Johnson Jr., the commanding general of the First Army and Fort Meade, for his consideration. The general's recommendation then goes to the Department of the Army, which has the final say.

Colonel Menser agreed that he could reject the proposal before it gets to the Pentagon, and residents urged him to "Just say no."

If the camp is moved to Fort Meade, state officials say it would be expanded from 365 inmates to 500. The camp runs a rigorous six-month course aimed at changing attitudes of first- and second-time offenders.

A spokeswoman for Gov. William Donald Schaefer has said the state's chief executive has taken a personal interest in moving the boot camp to Fort Meade and "really wants this to happen."

The camp would be located 100 yards south of Route 175 near Route 32, across the street from the massive Seven Oaks community that eventually will have 4,700 homes.

Most of the people at last night's meeting were from Seven Oaks.

Some carried signs and others handed out fliers voicing their opposition.

"We are very concerned about our property values," said Nancy Brodersen, a Seven Oaks resident. "What happens to them? Nothing good," if the boot camp is moved to Fort Meade.

Norman Myers, president of the Greater Odenton Improvement Association, said West County already has 10 state prison complexes down the road in Jessup.

"We don't need another penal institution," Mr. Myers said. "There are other parts of the state that could be used in housing this program."

As an example, he mentioned the David Taylor Research Lab, which is on the base closure list and across the Severn River from the state capital. "That way, Mr. Schaefer could take his morning walk, go across the river and check on his program."

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