New proposal launched for replacing Towson's 1926 police station house

November 08, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

When Baltimore County's Spanish Colonial Revival-style police station opened in Towson in 1926, some 75,000 people inhabited the 656-square-mile jurisdiction.

With the population edging over 700,000, officials have conceived a plan -- the second since 1979 -- to replace that building.

Veteran police officers like Sgt. J. T. Gribbin, who started his career as a cadet at the Towson station in 1976, aren't holding their breath until a new building opens. They stoically endure things like peeling plaster, a boiler with a mind of its own, a leaking roof, dial telephones and a floor plan akin to a rabbit warren.

"You learn to live with it," he said.

The one-story station house had a second floor added in 1938 and two small additions since, adding up to 9,100 square feet of space with no parking.

Now a 19-year veteran -- who has spent the last six years back in Towson -- Sergeant Gribbin said things have gotten better since he returned to the Washington Avenue building behind the Towson Post Office. "We used to have a major's office, internal affairs, detectives, traffic and inspections here," he said. "Now it's just the precinct."

The new proposal is to build a $8 million station house. It replaces the plan to move the Towson Precinct to Kenilworth Drive, where the former county police headquarters sits. A renovated public safety headquarters building at 700 E. Joppa Road is to be finished and fully occupied by both the Fire and Police departments by next spring.

A parking shortage -- the bane of central Towson -- is the villain that did in the Kenilworth conversion plan, said county Administrative Officer Merreen E. Kelly and Police Chief Michael D. Gambrill.

With a 216-bed addition to the detention center complete next door to the police building, the adjacent 117 parking spaces would not be enough -- not with the spaces also needed for additional correctional officers, lawyers and family members visiting the inmates.

Although the 1926 building has no parking, officers use a vacant county-owned lot a block away. At night, they can park on the street or in the county's nine-story garage next door.

The county explored the idea of building a multistory parking garage on two sides of the one-story Kenilworth police building but that was deemed too costly. County Revenue Authority Director George E. Hale said a 500-space garage would have cost $5.5 million to build, and the county would have had to pay the authority up to $400,000 a year to allow corrections guards and police officers to park there. And that's not counting costs of renovating the 34-year-old Kenilworth building.

So the mission is to find a place to build a new 22,000-square-foot police station, probably on Bosley Avenue south of the County Courts Building, or in East Towson, across Chesapeake Avenue from the new District Court building, Mr. Kelly said.

Since the original 1926 station house is on the county Landmarks Preservation List, it cannot be demolished.

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