Tipton opposed as boot camp site Schaefer's idea provokes anger

November 18, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

West Anne Arundel County residents, who thought they had blocked the relocation of the state prison boot camp from Jessup to Fort Meade a month ago, learned yesterday they may not have been so lucky.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer is considering moving the camp to Tipton Army Airfield, two miles away, on the other side of Fort Meade from the World War II-era barracks along Route 175 where he originally planned to locate it.

Mr. Schaefer briefly mentioned that he was considering Tipton as a boot-camp site during a news conference Tuesday. His press secretary, Page W. Boinest, confirmed it yesterday.

"It is right now something that is under consideration as a possible site for the boot camp," she said. "This is something the governor has been thinking about off and on."

Residents who fought Mr. Schaefer when he wanted to locate the Herman L. Toulson Correctional Boot Camp across the road from their development and their lawmaker allies reacted with disbelief and anger

"It is not fine with us. It's not significantly different," said Zoe Draughon, who was active in the fight against the site across the road from her home in Seven Oaks. "I don't understand why the governor is so dead set on putting the boot camp in this part of the county, this part of the state."

Del. John G. Gary, a Millersville Republican, wondered whether "the governor is just yanking our chain or is serious about it."

"I know I met with him last week, and he didn't say anything to me about it," said Mr. Gary, who had threatened to block state funding if the camp was moved to Fort Meade.

But he conceded that opposing the Tipton site might be more difficult because it is not immediately adjacent to residences.

"I think the opposition would lose a lot of their steam," Mr. Gary said.

The state Department of Public Safety also is considering

building a facility where state police officers would be trained in driving skills along with the boot camp, Ms. Boinest said, arguing that it would offer nearby residents a sense of security.

"So there would be a law-enforcement component along with the boot camp, a high law-enforcement presence there," she said.

But that news didn't satisfy Ms. Draughon.

"The police learning how to drive there, while comforting, does not allay anyone's fear," she said. "It's too close to homes. It's too close to children."

Even if the Tipton site is more isolated, there already are enough prisons in West County, community leaders said.

"We feel that any expansion of the prison population should take place outside of West County," said Norman Myers Sr., president of the Greater Odenton Improvement Association.

The state may have some competition for the site. On Monday night, the County Council authorized a feasibility study on buying Tipton and leasing it to a private firm to operate a local airport.

The state proposed moving the boot camp to Fort Meade last year to expand its capacity from 265 inmates to 500 and to make room for women prisoners at its crowded complex in Jessup.

After an uproar from local residents, U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the 5th District Democrat, tacked an amendment onto a military construction bill forbidding use of any federal money to relocate the camp to the military post. That effectively killed the proposed move.

Mr. Hoyer said last month that he would work with the governor to find alternative sites.

"It's been over a month, and we really haven't heard anything from them," Ms. Boinest said. "So the governor has to keep casting around for another site."

The Army must dispose of Tipton airfield by Sept. 30, 1995, under the Base Closure and Realignment Act. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had considered using it for sheltering the homeless, but has decided against that. Local governments would get the first chance at the site before it is sold.

Louise Hayman, spokeswoman for County Executive Robert R. Neall, said county officials are concerned about possible environmental contamination at the Tipton site and will scrutinize it closely before making any decision to buy it.

Mr. Schaefer had not yet communicated with the county about putting the boot camp there.

"This is an intriguing idea, and I guess we'll just have to wait to hear more from the state," Ms. Hayman said.

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