Boschert says intentions for former hospital site in Crownsville won't conflict

Home for veterans, county park proposed

February 03, 2005|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

A proposal to study converting a portion of the former Crownsville Hospital Center into a state veterans home would not hurt Anne Arundel County's efforts to secure some of the land for a park, the bill's sponsor told legislators yesterday.

"I'm not worried about the property; I'm worried about [what happens to] the facilities, the brick and mortar," state Del. David G. Boschert, a Crownsville Republican, told the Health and Government Operations Committee.

Boschert introduced a bill that would create a task force to study whether buildings from the old state psychiatric hospital could be used for a second Maryland residence for veterans, along with an outpatient center.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's edition incorrectly reported a statement by Anne Arundel County official Kevin O'Keeffe about the former Crownsville Hospital Center site. O'Keeffe said the county is working with the state to determine the environmental condition of the portion of the site that contains the hospital and other buildings. The Sun regrets the error.

The bill proposes to halt the planned transfer of some land and facilities on the 1,200-acre campus from the state to Anne Arundel County until after the task force completes a six-month study by Dec. 31.

In November, County Executive Janet S. Owens wrote Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that the county plans to acquire a 559-acre portion of the campus - the section west of Interstate 97 - for a proposed greenway network.

Wait and see

Aides to Owens said they are taking a wait-and-see approach regarding the bill. The county is working with the state to determine the environmental condition of the 559 acres, and the potential costs involved in turning the tract into a park, said Kevin O'Keefe, a government relations officer for the county.

No vote was taken at yesterday's committee hearing.

If the measure were to become law, a representative of the county would be named to the 12-member panel.

The portion of the campus east of I-97, which included the hospital complex, served psychiatric patients for nearly a century before the state shut it down in June. Many of the old buildings are contaminated with lead paint and asbestos, said Boschert, who had fought to keep the hospital open.

"Since we have facilities on this campus, they should be used for the betterment of others in the community," Boschert said.

Others interested

He added that the Maryland State Police and the University of Maryland, University College are among other state agencies interested in the property.

Boschert said his proposal would not affect other agencies that use other buildings on the campus, including a county food bank, a drug treatment center and a satellite police station.

Given that the state has one veterans home for its more than 500,000 veterans, advocates said the time is now to determine whether Crownsville might be a suitable site for a second facility.

The capacity of the state's only facility, Charlotte Hall, which is in St. Mary's County, is about 500.

"The number [of Maryland veterans] is growing," said George E. Creighton, a representative for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. "We need to start thinking about the needs that will be placed on the state."

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