Glendening says he won't let crime lab move to Carroll Co. Some say move to keep state police facility in Pikesville is political

July 29, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening moved yesterday to quell fears that the Maryland State Police might abandon their historic Pikesville headquarters, saying he has told state police officials to stop looking in Carroll County for a new police crime lab site.

The announcement -- which surprised officials gathered at a routine business group breakfast in Pikesville -- was hailed by County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and local Democrats who said it would help preserve old Pikesville.

But it was denounced by state Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Carroll County Republican, as a blatant political move by the governor to shore up his base in Baltimore County, where current Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ellen R. Sauerbrey beat Glendening four years ago.

"We get a Republican governor, we may turn that around," said Haines of the decision to keep the crime lab in Pikesville. He called Glendening's move "purely political. It's about winning the election." A Glendening spokesman denied that assertion, saying the decision was in line with his policy of curbing suburban sprawl.

Baltimore County officials view the crime lab as a key anchor for the state police, fearing that its move could be the first step toward eventual relocation of the entire 500-person headquarters. The Pikesville campus includes an administration building, training academy, recruitment office and maintenance shop.

"It's extremely important to Pikesville," Ruppersberger said after Glendening's announcement, adding that he and local officials have been lobbying for the past six to eight months to keep the crime lab. Despite that, he said the governor's comments yesterday "were news to me."

Police Superintendent David B. Mitchell said that while he never planned to move the entire headquarters, the crime lab is overcrowded in Pikesville.

The 24,000-square-foot lab at Sudbrook Lane and Reisterstown Road was built in 1985 to house 36 employees. Today, 67 technicians work there and about 20 jobs are vacant.

Mitchell said the lab is expecting huge increases in demand for DNA testing, ballistics and other work and that the building cannot be renovated to accommodate modern DNA testing standards. He said he would like to have a new, larger lab in or near the Pikesville complex.

Robert L. Hannon, county economic development director, said he is looking for a 5- to 6-acre site for a new 50,000-square-foot police lab to replace the current one -- perhaps on wooded land at nearby Suburban Country Club.

Mitchell said state police eventually plan to move the police training academy to Sykesville, where a professional driving course is located and where a new shooting range is being built on surplus Springfield Hospital Center land. Sykesville will be developed as a police training center for agencies all over the state, he said.

First developed in 1816 as a U.S. Army fort, the Pikesville headquarters site was bought by the state in 1888 and converted to a Confederate Soldiers Home. The state police took over in 1949, and improvements and expansion followed as suburban businesses and county facilities grew up around it.

Yesterday, Glendening said that while it may be appropriate for facilities such as the shooting range and driving course to be located farther out in the suburbs, he wants the headquarters to remain in Pikesville.

"I really do think it ties in to Smart Growth," Glendening said of his strategy of discouraging suburban sprawl and strengthening older neighborhoods. He said he has asked Mitchell to redirect police headquarters planning along those lines.

State Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Democrat who represents Pikesville and Owings Mills, said that during the last General Assembly session, "Carroll County was jumping up and down that they were getting the crime lab.

"There's no way as long as I'm senator, and as long as this governor is in office, that we're going to lose the state police."

Pub Date: 7/29/98

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