21 budget proposals set for advisory board Fire department pitch for $2.4 million is among the requests

January 26, 1996|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

If they had the money, one of the first things Anne Arundel County firefighters would do is set fire to a brand new building. Again and again.

The Fire Department made a pitch yesterday to the county's capital budget overseers for $757,000 to construct a "fire burn building" to train firefighters under real-life conditions.

The request was one of many that departments will present to the county's Planning Advisory Board, which will recommend how best to distribute $46 million for capital improvement projects in fiscal 1997.

The board will hear 21 budget proposals over the next few weeks and will make its recommendations to the County Council by May 1.

The Fire Department is hoping for $2.4 million, with the new fire burn building high on the list. The building, next to its Millersville headquarters, would include rooms designed like warehouses, shops, homes and offices, as well as elevator shafts and roofs that would allow firefighters to practice difficult rescues, said Deputy Chief C. Gary Rogers.

The county's 600 career firefighters and 700 volunteers currently train in two rooms in a house-like burn building next to the headquarters. The smaller facility has exposed pipes, cracking brick walls and limited fire-setting scenarios, he said.

"This new building would allow us to train in some pretty realistic situations," Mr. Rogers told the board, which will tour the existing burn building next month.

The Fire Department's top priority for the next fiscal year is for $731,000 to overhaul its headquarters and add 5,600 square feet of office space and a first-ever sprinkler system for the entire building.

The department also wants to move its emergency operations center eight miles from the basement of a Crownsville State Hospital building to fire headquarters. During this month's blizzard, fire officials had trouble coordinating responses to calls for assistance, Mr. Rogers said.

County detention center Superintendent Richard Baker asked for $18.1 million for a new jail on Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie and $563,000 for renovations at the Jennifer Road facility just outside Annapolis.

The county hopes to break ground on the 400-bed, minimum-security detention center by summer, with the state paying half the construction costs. The jail, which is expected to cost $21 million, is scheduled to open by Sept. 1, 1997. It will house prisoners sentenced to 18 months or less, most of whom will be on work-release sentences.

Although the planning advisory board has consistently opposed having two jails, calling it a waste of money, the panel did not protest yesterday.

"They've gotten over the fact that we're not going to change our plans," said county budget analyst Ray Elwell, who called the advisory board's reaction "much more docile than in the past."

Another request before the Planning Advisory Board is for $775,000 to help pay for the conversion of Tipton Army Airfield to a civilian airport.

Federal and state reimbursements will lower the county's final cost of the project to $100,000, Mr. Elwell said.

This year, the county hopes to shore up buildings at the site so that construction workers can begin renovations.

The board will hear its next round of capital budget requests Thursday, starting with the Police Department, which will ask for $1.5 million. Most of the money would pay for a $928,000, partially enclosed firing range at an undetermined location.

Police administrators have lobbied unsuccessfully for a firing range for several years.

Currently, officers practice shooting at an outdoor range in a Davidsonville neighborhood. Residents complain that bullets ricochet off their houses, and police are unhappy because they cannot practice at all hours.

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