County Council opposes boot camp at Tipton

December 21, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

The County Council added its voice last night to the growing chorus rising in opposition to a proposal to locate the state prison boot camp at Tipton Army Airfield in western Anne Arundel County.

The council, by a 6-0 vote, approved Councilman David G. Boschert's resolution opposing the boot camp relocation. Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, an Annapolis Democrat, abstained.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer set his sights on Tipton after an earlier attempt to relocate the Herman L. Toulson Correctional Boot Camp to property on the northern edge of Fort Meade was thwarted by the opposition of community groups and county, state and federal legislators.

County officials are conducting a feasibility study to determine whether Anne Arundel should request transfer of the airfield when it closes in 1995 under the federal Base Closure and Realignment Act. The county would then turn the airfield over to a private concern to operate as a regional aviation facility.

Tipton Airfield houses an Army Reserve Chinook helicopter battalion and employs 89 full-time civilians and 21 active guard -- reservists. In his resolution, Mr. Boschert stressed that those jobs would be lost if the airfield was converted into a boot camp.

"The boot camp concept is great," he said. But locating it at Tipton would not conform to the recommendations of a task force that studied future uses of the airfield and concluded that it should remain an aviation facility, Mr. Boschert said.

The resolution also said relocating the boot camp to Tipton would threaten the integrity of the Odenton Town Plan to revitalize the west county community.

Mr. Boschert's colleagues agreed that after the council approved the feasibility study in September, Mr. Schaefer's move on Tipton was premature.

"Let the study show us what it should be," said Councilman George Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat.

"I think the council would be sending mixed messages if we didn't let this resolution go forward," said Councilwoman Diane Evans, an Arnold Republican.

But some residents who testified at last night's public hearing urged the council and west county residents not to be afraid of inmates of the boot camp, which only accepts nonviolent offenders.

Robert F. Hofford, representing the Severna Park Chamber of Commerce, opposed the boot camp and urged the council to consider the economic benefits a private airfield would bring to the west county.

"I think it's a waste of money and a waste of time to take a facility that is direly needed and turn it into a facility that, while it is needed, could be put elsewhere," Mr. Hofford said.

Copies of the resolution will be sent to Mr. Schaefer, Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, and Reps. Benjamin L. Cardin, Steny H. Hoyer and Kweisi Mfume, all Democrats, and Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest.

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