Land donated for firefighter training

October 15, 2006|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,sun reporter

Carroll officials and volunteer firefighters said they were pleasantly surprised when they learned that Lehigh Cement Company had donated 40 acres of land on McKinstry's Mill Road to the county for a new emergency services training center.

"This is something that's been in the works for quite some years," said Kent Martin, Lehigh plant manager. "We finally got all the authorizing signatures."

The company, which has a number of volunteer firefighters and emergency medical responders on its staff, has always let those employees go when a call comes in, Martin said last week.

"If we have an opportunity when corporate giving can benefit our employees, that to us is a very positive thing," Martin said.

County personnel and firefighters said the project can move forward.

The commissioners had already allocated $7.5 million for a new training center. But finding the right site was not easy.

Last fall, Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association officials announced that Lehigh was offering 25 acres that it owned near Linwood for the training center.

Some fire companies suggested asking for additional acreage for such facilities as a large vehicle driver training area and fire safety and prevention programs.

The current fire training center on Kate Wagner Road sits on five acres surrounded by schools and Adelphia Cable TV.

The 23-year-old center lacks space for large-scale training or any expansion and its aging buildings need renovating, fire officials said.

Despite its limits, the center's classrooms and training areas are used by three dozen groups and surrounding jurisdictions, said Leon Fleming, the association's liaison to the county.

"The important thing is the county is getting approximately 40 acres, and we'll be building a state of the art facility where we can expand in the future," said Richard Green Sr., association president.

Green noted that having the land donated saved the county money and gives firefighters funds to do more at the center.

But residents of the small village of Linwood near the site have expressed concern about noise and traffic from the new center, especially on Sundays when Linwood Church of the Brethren holds worship services.

"We still have to go to the community and talk to them about how the facility will work, give them our concept plan, tell them this is what we are planning," said Steve Powell, the commissioners' chief of staff. "We want to make sure the center and the community are good neighbors."

Powell said he has already met with church officials and its attorney "to make sure if the center goes there that we respect the community as we move forward with the center."

A community meeting has been scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Linwood church on McKinstry's Mill Road with county officials, firefighters, church representatives and nearby residents, Green said.

"The downfall is that [the property] is not centrally located, but there was no land that made everybody happy," Green said. "If the community has a real big concern, we'll try to appease them as much as we can."

ellie.baublitz@baltsun.com

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