Howard, Arundel agree on Tipton airfield bill revisions Measure deals with Meade site management

December 12, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County officials agreed yesterday to include Howard County in legislation allowing the establishment of a quasi-governmental authority to manage Tipton Airport.

The agreement came during a meeting of representatives from both counties to discuss the bill. The Tipton Airport Advisory Committee has been meeting regularly to discuss operation of the 310-acre parcel at Fort Meade as a general aviation airport once the Army transfers the site to civilian control as part of the federal Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1988.

Initially, the two counties were to own and manage the property jointly. But Howard County's role has become unclear as Howard Executive Charles I. Ecker has expressed concern over his jurisdiction's liability for environmental problems at the site once the Army finishes its cleanup. The county is spending $64,000 in federal grant money to conduct an environmental study of the parcel.

About 80 percent of the site, which was used as an artillery training area as early as World War I and contains landfills, has been cleared of unexploded ordnance, according to a Fort Meade Environmental Management Office official.

A draft of the seven-page bill that Anne Arundel lawyers prepared for submission to the General Assembly next month would allow the county to create a Tipton Airport Authority. But the measure makes no mention of Howard County.

"I would like Howard County included in that legislation," Ecker wrote Dec. 2 in a letter to Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary. "Howard County is still interested in participating, providing we can work out the environmental and liability issues."

At the meeting at Fort Meade yesterday, Howard representatives lobbied to change the wording of the bill to include their county.

The authority would be called a "bi-county authority," and references to "Anne Arundel County" and "the county" would be changed to "Anne Arundel County or Howard and Anne Arundel" counties and "the counties," under wording proposed by Rick Vessels, a Howard representative.

"This is the primary piece of legislation that will do what we have been working to do for the last seven or eight years," said Vessels, who works with computer information systems. "Howard County does need to be included in this."

Sam Minnitte, chief of staff for Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary, said he would ask the county law office to make those changes.

Gary has "every intention" of continuing to work with Howard County, Minnitte said. But Howard County's role in owning or managing the airport does not need to be fully defined yet, he said.

Anne Arundel County is preparing to sign a lease for some Tipton buildings in areas that have been cleared of ordnance, and Howard County could be added to the lease agreement or to one for the larger parcel later, according to Minnitte.

Gary is expected to present the authorization bill to the county's General Assembly delegation next week.

Pub Date: 12/12/96

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