Preparing for influx of jobs

Craig wants advisory panel to help county handle any problems

October 09, 2005|By JUSTIN FENTON | JUSTIN FENTON,SUN REPORTER

Advisory panel sought County Executive David R. Craig is preparing an executive order establishing a 20-member advisory commission to help the county prepare for the thousands of new jobs expected in and around Aberdeen Proving Ground over the next several years.

Headed by economic development director J. Thomas Sadowski, the panel would include various county department leaders charged with advising Craig and the County Council on Harford's needs.

The latest estimates suggest as many as 20,000 private-sector jobs could follow the 2,200 military jobs set to arrive as a result of a national base consolidation plan.

"The intent is to make sure we have the housing in place, the transportation in place, the zoning is up to date -- those types of things," Craig said.

Much of the transportation money will be expected to come from the federal government, but state and local officials are preparing to bear the increased burden of paying for new schools and police and fire protection.

Departments are assessing their needs, and would come together within 30 days to develop comprehensive plans and a precise price tag.

With realignment expected to be staggered over the next two to six years, Craig said, the commission's work will have an open-ended timeline.

And because many large-scale projects often take two to six years -- from the planning through execution phases -- the need for adjustments is rapidly approaching, he said.

"If we don't proceed now to get a good plan, we're going to hurt ourselves in the long run," said Bob Cooper, director of Public Works, who will oversee road, water, sewage and power needs.

"I've been here six weeks and I don't know where the time's gone," Cooper said.

Schools Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas told the county school board last week that 5,000 to 12,500 new students are expected to be added to the school system, which is about to undergo redistricting.

School buses, already running late on the county's clogged roads, would be affected.

Emergency services are anticipating a need for more police and fire personnel and hospital capacity.

"We already know right now that there is a need to supplement our existing resources," said Douglas W. Richmond, a planner with the county emergency operations.

"But with such a large increase in population in a relatively short time, we're going to have to re-evaluate our timelines," Richmond said.

At a meeting in Crownsville of representatives of the state's military installations last week, attended by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., his Cabinet and some of the state's congressional delegation and county leaders, officials said the new jobs are growth that can be forecast, planned and shaped.

Residents will have access to good jobs without having to commute to Baltimore, Washington, Wilmington or Philadelphia, they said, and will diversify the area's industry base.

A list of needs presented at the meeting included fully funded road projects, establishing a homeland security curriculum in county schools, and design and planning funds for mass transportation.

Many department heads said their needs were identified long before the base realignment and are now merely being accelerated.

"We had what we were calling a wish list, and then we said, `You know, we really need these things,'" said Cooper.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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