Howard to join Anne Arundel in operating Tipton Airfield

April 04, 1995|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

The Howard County Council voted last night to join Anne Arundel County in leasing Tipton Airfield at Fort Meade from the Army and running it as a civilian facility, beginning this fall.

The unanimous vote of the five-member council commits Howard to an interim agreement under which the two counties will operate the airfield until the Army cleans up the site -- a process expected to take at least two years. Both counties will assign workers to Tipton and, after the Army cleans up the site, Arundel and Howard will create a joint airport authority to run Tipton.

There are three landfills on the 366-acre airfield, and munitions from as far back as World War I are believed to buried there. Hand grenades, mortars and anti-tank rockets already have been removed and detonated.

Council members said at a work session last week that they were skittish about whether Howard would be liable for any damages or injuries that might occur as a result of hazardous or toxic wastes left undetected at Tipton once the Army relinquishes it.

The council wanted an opinion from the county attorney regarding the liability question before last night's vote. The attorney said liability for any hazardous materials that remain after the Army's cleanup will stay with the Army.

The opinion was precautionary since the Army has pledged to clean up the site before yielding it to the counties and has agreed to allow an independent consultant to verify that the site is free of contaminants.

When Howard and Anne Arundel take possession of the site after the cleanup, the airfield will be run by an airport authority responsible to both counties. Once it becomes a civilian airfield, Tipton is expected to house 300 planes and generate $25 million annually in revenue.

Officials from Fort Meade, the Maryland and federal aviation administrations and Anne Arundel and Howard counties will hold a public briefing on plans for Tipton at 7 p.m. April 11 at Hammond High School.

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