County warned on growth at Fort Meade

Planning chief says Anne Arundel should act now to seek federal funds to prepare for influx of jobs

March 15, 2006|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

Anne Arundel County should start moving now to secure federal funds to prepare for a large military expansion at Fort Meade, a top county official told the County Council yesterday.

To that end, Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr. said, it is paramount that the council approve the establishment of a committee that could petition for money to handle the transition.

Rutter said such a committee could make an initial funding request next month to the Office of Economic Adjustment, a Department of Defense agency that provides assistance to communities affected by the base realignment and closure process, also called BRAC.

Rutter cautioned that competing funding interests from other states affected by BRAC, along with spending demands for the Iraq war and the reconstruction from Hurricane Katrina, are squeezing federal resources.

"We are making sure we understand where we are going ... and to search for funding," Rutter testified in a council work session.

About 5,300 defense jobs are expected to arrive to Fort Meade over the next six years, a movement that could spur the arrival of thousands of private-sector contractors in the defense information and technology sectors.

Such an influx, local and state leaders estimate, will require upgrading roads, waterlines and schools and expanding police and fire service - to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in Anne Arundel County.

Local officials have said state and federal dollars will be needed over the next decade to pay for the improvements.

The committee must be established, according to Pentagon rules, through Anne Arundel County. The panel of 12 to 15 members will seek to represent the interests of Anne Arundel, along with several surrounding jurisdictions, including Howard, Prince George's and Montgomery counties. The rules require that the County Council approve the formation of the committee.

Rutter said that County Executive Janet S. Owens, Howard County Executive James N. Robey and Anne Arundel County Councilman Bill D. Burlison, an Odenton Democrat who represents the areas around Fort Meade, would serve as ex-officio members of the committee.

Robey will soon establish by executive order a separate growth committee for Howard County, but only Anne Arundel's committee will be able to petition for federal assistance, Rutter said.

The Anne Arundel committee will include "the [other] people who have been involved all along," Rutter said, including Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy, the Fort Meade commander, and Richard W. Story, chief executive of Howard County's economic development arm, along with representatives from the National Security Agency, the county Board of Education, business interests and local community leaders.

Rutter said that Anne Arundel officials will continue to work most closely with their counterparts in Howard County, which is about a mile from the Army post. Howard is expected to assume much of the residential and commercial growth coming to the Fort Meade area.

Council members inquired about other specific appointments, but Rutter declined to elaborate. He said that some potential appointees had yet to be contacted by the county, but that he would provide a list to the council in advance of the council session on Monday, when a vote may occur. The resolution is expected to pass.

Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle, a Linthicum Democrat, implored Rutter to make sure the committee consists of community leaders "who really know about those areas."

Another council member, Barbara D. Samorajczyk, a Democrat who represents the Annapolis area, said of the resolution: "We are being asked to appoint something in a total vacuum."

But Burlison, who represents areas surrounding Fort Meade, said the forming of the committee is a vital step toward addressing the concerns of his constituents regarding transportation and schools.

"Can anyone question the importance of that?" he asked.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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