Lawmakers to fight for lab in Sykesville

Ehrlich picks Pikesville as site of police facility, but delegation disagrees

`The right thing to do'

Project would be better located at training center for Md. troopers, they say

Carroll County

January 24, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Although a state construction program announced yesterday by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. includes money to build a new state police crime lab in Baltimore County, Carroll's legislative delegation vows to continue its fight to get the $23.5 million project at a Sykesville site.

The lab originally was supposed to be part of a $60 million police training center at the former site of the state's Springfield Hospital Center, and Carroll lawmakers say that is where it belongs.

"I would sure like to see that building in Carroll County. and I am going to keep trying to get it there," said Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, a Howard County Republican whose district includes South Carroll. "Sykesville is where it belongs. Everything should be in the same place."

Ehrlich's nearly $1 billion capital budget proposal included about $19 million in construction projects for Carroll County, including $2.5 million for renovations to North Carroll Middle School, $1.1 million for a residential drug treatment center and $3 million for an academic building at Westminster's McDaniel College. It also included $5.2 million for additional construction at the police training center, but lawmakers were disappointed to see that the governor's proposal called for the crime lab to be built at state police headquarters in Pikesville.

In 1999, then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening moved the planned lab to Baltimore County and also threatened to move the classrooms and dormitories to a site outside Carroll. Eventually, town and county officials were able to persuade the governor to build the last phase of the training center in Sykesville, site of a shooting range and drivers training course.

The state broke ground last year on the restoration of two cavernous buildings at the Springfield property and the construction of a gymnasium and athletic fields on the site, along Route 32. But, by then, the state had invested $2 million in the Pikesville site.

"They are a long way down the road in Pikesville," Kittleman said. "They have torn down buildings, gotten architectural drawings, but they have not dug the dirt yet.

"They won't lose money, if they sell the property and take the plans to Sykesville," he added.

He said persuading the governor to change his mind is "not probable, but it's possible."

The county delegation has scheduled a meeting with state officials next week and has spoken to House and Senate leaders, said Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale.

"We are working to get the lab here," she said. "We are talking to the budget people and to the state police."

Del. Carmen Amedori said the Carroll County site is a better one for the police lab.

"Do you want to have access to Interstate 70 or do you want to try to get around Pikesville?" she asked. "Economically, keeping everything in Sykesville is the right thing to do. But, politically, is it going to work for the governor to move it from Pikesville?"

Del. Donald B. Elliott said he was disappointed the money was restored to the Pikesville location.

"A forensic crime lab is much more appropriate where it was originally intended to be at the training center," he said.

Money in Ehrlich's spending plan would help pay for a 25-bed residential treatment center for substance abusers in South Carroll.

"We really need that center in the county and for county residents," Amedori said.

The three-story, 38,000- square-foot academic building planned for McDaniel College would house graduate classes in education, deaf education and psychology, which are held in the school's original infirmary and student center.

The college submitted its request for state money for the project to the Maryland Independent Colleges and Universities more than a year ago, said Ethan A. Seidel, the school's vice president of administration and finance. Previously, the state has approved other capital projects at the college, such as the library and a science building.

Overall, Amedori said, she is pleased with the share Carroll has been allotted.

"This is a really good sign," she said. "So many times we have had to fight for everything. These budget figures are a good indicator of the future."

Sun staff writer Athima Chansanchai contributed to this article.

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