Search is under way for new site Shelter will have shuttle bus service twice a day

October 31, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

With the city of Westminster offering to help provide a shuttle bus, Carroll County officials agreed yesterday to resume the search for a new site for Safe Haven.

Moving the homeless shelter within a five-mile radius of Westminster could provide dozens of possible sites.

A twice-daily shuttle service to the shelter would cost roughly $12,000 to $24,000, officials were told.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell and Westminster Council President Edward S. Calwell volunteered to work with county and city staff to find an acceptable site by the end of next month.

More than a dozen possible shelter locations in and around Westminster have been suggested and rejected since midsummer.

That's when the commissioners first said they would build the facility near the County Office Building, off Route 140 and Center Street in an area called Crowltown, rather than as planned on Stoner Avenue near the existing facility.

The commissioners said they had complaints about the planned site from residents along Stoner Avenue. City officials, residents and businesses also oppose the commissioners' Crowltown plan.

Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan opened yesterday's after-breakfast discussion by saying, "It's obviously an important issue that's been on our plates for far too long.

"We are willing to purchase a van, to make a yearly grant of some amount of money toward the operation, with that amount to be negotiated," he said. "We don't want to be in the transportation business ourselves.

"We think it would be better if HSP operated it," he added, referring to Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., a private not-for-profit agency that operates the shelter and other programs for the homeless.

Sylvia Canon, the agency's executive director, has said the shuttle solution would be acceptable -- although not ideal -- because she just wants the shelter built.

The mayor and council made the proposal even though the city has no obligation to the project, because "we seemed to be at gridlock," Yowan said.

"This is a countywide issue," said Jolene Sullivan, director of the county's Department of Citizen Services, "but the bottom line is the services are here in Westminster. The farther out we go, the greater the impact."

"And the greater the cost," added Max Bair, the commissioners' chief of staff.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said, "From my own perspective, I'm willing to take more time to look at sites. I'm glad the city has expressed the willingness" to share the cost of transportation.

Two 10-mile round trips a day, every day of the year, would cost $12,150 a year, Sullivan said. "Worst case: It could be double that $1.67 is pretty much the cost of operation, maintenance, personnel."

The $1.67 cost per mile would include fuel, maintenance and a driver, but not the vehicle's cost.

"I think we have the basis for discussion," said Westminster Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro. "We need to look at figures. $1.67 seems high to me."

Although Carroll County General Hospital was to buy the Safe Haven property in 1994, the hospital has announced no plans. Its sale depends upon a shelter being built, said Karen K. Blandford, the city's administrator of Housing and Community Development. Until then, Safe Haven is to remain open at its current site.

About $322,000 has been designated for construction of a shelter, Sullivan said. A $1.2 million federal grant includes part of that construction cost, plus three years of operating expenses.

Yowan said state highway and environmental officials have expressed doubts about building a shelter at Crowltown -- alongside Longwell Run -- but county officials said they had not ++ been told of anything that would block the project.

Pub Date: 10/31/97

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