New home for the homeless Carroll County: Commissioners right to pick site, must address Westminster's concerns.

September 17, 1997

THE NEW CARROLL COUNTY homeless shelter will likely be located in Westminster, much to the dismay of the city's officials. Westminster Mayor Kenneth Yowan pledges to continue the fight, citing the leverage of other city requirements that might block the chosen site.

But it is virtually certain that the 40-bed Safe Haven shelter will be built adjacent to the county office building on Center Street. The land is owned by the county and has access to municipal water and sewer service.

A major factor in selecting the city site was the county's need to provide a shelter to keep some $1 million in state and federal grants, while filling a community need.

Once the county sold the present shelter site on Stoner Avenue, it had to move promptly to build a replacement; federal funds would be lost if not used in 13 months.

However, the process turned to delay and buck-passing, as the first proposed site was rejected for business and neighborhood concerns. The county asked city officials to pick an acceptable site. City officials, in turn, suggested the site originally rejected. The county commissioners, to their credit, then moved ahead without city consultation to pick the Center Street location.

Dialogue and cooperation between the two governments was going nowhere, an exercise in nonproductive discussion and fruitless proposals. It was the county's responsibility to decide, within the law, regardless of the courtesy extended to Westminster.

Westminster claims that the facility will result in an unfair burden on the municipal police force and local fire department. Carroll should be able to work out a public safety arrangement with the city that would minimize the demand on city emergency officers from the new shelter. A grant to the city, perhaps, or a security officer hired for the shelter.

Westminster officials were involved in site discussions early on, and were told the shelter would be built near Carroll County General Hospital. When commissioners pulled the plug on that parcel, Westminster officials felt they had been deceived.

The shelter for the homeless is needed, and a suitable site is available. The county and city should work together for its success.

Pub Date: 9/17/97

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