Residents, officials oppose moving boot camp for inmates to Odenton WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

August 05, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Moving the Herman L. Toulson Correctional Boot Camp from Jessup to Fort Meade could destroy Odenton's economic comeback, elected officials and residents said last night.

A dozen elected officials from the county, state and Congress stood before 300 people at the Odenton Fire Hall to express displeasure with the state proposal.

Residents said that a boot camp does not fit in with Fort Meade's plan to create an educational complex on the post and that it could ruin Odenton's rebounding image.

"This community is on the brink of something special," said Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall. "It is the wrong location and certainly the wrong time to change the direction of this very large community."

Bob Dvorak, the county director of planning and code enforcement who is working on the redesign of Odenton, said 23 years of work could be lost if the boot camp is moved to the area.

"This could destroy what we see as the future of Odenton," he said. "This would strike at the very heart of the North Odenton area."

Last year, Maryland correctional officials proposed moving the camp from Jessup to Fort Meade and expanding it from 365 inmates to 500.

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

The camp features a rigorous six-month course aimed at changing attitudes of first- and second-time nonviolent offenders.

Bishop L. Robinson, Maryland secretary of public safety and correctional services, had said through a spokesman that he would not speak at the meeting. But he spoke last night after being urged by several audience members to do so.

He said the proposal is still being discussed by his staff and that staff members' initial visits did not show the proposed site to be near a residential community.

"However, I understand your concerns," Mr. Robinson said. "I have heard from you loud and clear tonight that you are in opposition. I am here to listen to you and go back and converse with the governor regarding your concerns."

He said other sites were under consideration but would not disclose them, prompting a burst of laughter from the audience.

Speakers complained repeatedly about the way they learned of the proposal, saying they were offended that even elected officials heard about it through rumors and the newspapers.

They also blamed the former commander of Fort Meade, who had worked with the state on the proposal and had wanted to decide the issue before he retired in June.

Faced with staunch opposition, he left the decision in the hands of his successor, Col. Robert G. Morris III, who did not attend the meeting but has indicated he will make his decision next week.

"It seems like the burden has been shifted to us to prove why a boot camp should not be at Fort Meade," said Kevin Reynolds, representing the Seven Oaks community. "That seems to be backward."

Del. John G. Gary, R-Anne Arundel, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he will oppose any funding that involves a boot camp at Fort Meade.

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