Howard community fears planned crisis relief center Nonprofit agency wants to remake vacant hospital into a vocational center

September 23, 1997|By Carolyn Melago | Carolyn Melago,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Some Henryton Road residents are afraid a proposed center near Sykesville for recovering addicts and the poor will threaten the safety of their secluded community.

The rural Howard County community of Meadowood is separated only by woods and a shallow, narrow part of the South Branch of the Patapsco River from the former Henryton Hospital in Carroll County, which is due to be turned over to a nonprofit agency on Oct. 1.

"We chose this area to live in because we thought we'd left most of these problems elsewhere," said Tom Marney, who is spearheading a drive to keep the center out of the area. "Now, the state is importing the problems."

Marney said parents are concerned about sending their children to a bus stop that is about a half-mile from the proposed center. Few cars travel Henryton Road, he said, and the bus stop is out of sight of parents and houses.

Bill Graham, a Henryton Road resident for 20 years, agreed.

"We've got a lot of young kids up here, and it's just too close," he said. "It's secluded, and it's just too dangerous in this area."

On Sept. 10, the state Board of Public Works awarded the 18 buildings and 50 acres of the deserted hospital, built in 1923 as a tuberculosis center, to Harvest International, a nonprofit crisis-relief organization based in Owings Mills. The organization is expected to sign a 15-year lease with the state for $5,000 annually on Oct. 1.

Harvest International spokeswoman Lisa Hargrove said the individuals treated at the center -- to be named City of Hope -- will not put the community at risk.

"These won't be people who are crackheads or harmful," said Hargrove. She described the planned City of Hope as an international relief-training facility that would provide vocational programs for the homeless, unwed mothers and rehabilitated addicts.

Hargrove said all candidates for the program would undergo intensive screening.

The facility, which became a center for the developmentally disabled in 1962, was closed 12 years ago and has been vacant since. Maintenance and security of the buildings has cost about $100,000 annually.

"It has been a continuous burden for the state to maintain the property," said state Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Republican representing the area in Carroll's 5th District. "I think this is a very appropriate use for the property."

But Henryton Road residents expressed anger that they weren't informed sooner about the proposed center.

"We're right across the river from it, and we haven't been notified," said Dan Zuchowski. "I wish they'd hold up the signing of the lease until people are notified."

State Sen. Christopher McCabe, a Republican representing Howard County's 14th District, said the holdup may have been due to the facility's location across the county line.

"The residents should have had more knowledge, but for a variety of reasons they just didn't get the information, just as I didn't get the information," he said.

McCabe is planning a public meeting with Harvest International, state officials and Carroll County officials on Monday -- two days before the lease is scheduled to be signed.

Pub Date: 9/23/97

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