Police, fire officials address concerns on training facility

Shooting range, traffic, security, kids' safety are among worries


March 19, 2004|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Howard County police and fire officials met with Marriottsville residents last night to allay concerns and offer more details on a $17.2 million public safety training facility beginning to take shape in a neighborhood that continues to sprout new homes.

The complex would consist of about seven structures on 41 acres of the Alpha Ridge Landfill. It was announced two years ago - before many homes nearby were built - and is expected to be completed by mid-2007, officials said.

The police and fire departments want to eliminate the practice of sending officers and firefighters to facilities in other counties for certain types of training because it costs money and drains manpower and public safety resources from Howard County.

Marriottsville residents, however, are more concerned about gunshots from the shooting range, increased traffic, site security, children's safety, and daily views of police officers practicing arrests or firefighters tackling a burning building.

"You have a nice weekend, you want to relax. You don't really want to watch cops," a woman told a gathering of 25 residents, police and fire officials at Mount View Middle School. "I don't want to watch that from my front porch on a regular basis."

County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, who represents the area, organized and attended last night's meeting.

The structures would include: a "burn tower," for firefighters to practice attacking different kinds of fires; a maintenance storage building; a classroom and an administration building; a simulation-training building; a chemical building, where police officers can train with pepper spray and tear gas; an armory; and a K-9 kennel.

"We're involved in training every day of the week," Howard Police Chief Wayne Livesay told residents. "We're mandated by law to do retraining each year."

Livesay and Chief Joseph A. Herr, head of the county's Department of Fire and Rescue Services, assured residents that the site will be secure, traffic won't become a headache, children won't intrude and that their departments would be all-around "good neighbors."

Chief Mickey Day, head of the West Friendship volunteer fire department and a resident living near the planned facility, told the group: "When we're there, I assure you: You won't know we're there."

Police will use the complex from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with the majority of the time during the week. Fire personnel will use it weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and occasionally during evenings and weekends.

Some residents indicated their support for the facility. "It has to be in somebody's back yard," said Karyn Littlejohn, who lives with four children near the site. "I feel a little bit safer knowing that there are policemen and firefighters going in and out."

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