Emergency training center debated

Proposed location is on 40 acres in Linwood area

November 05, 2006|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Sun Reporter

Upset about a proposed emergency services training center on McKinstry's Mill Road, about 30 residents of the Linwood area met with county officials and volunteer firefighters to voice concerns about the location.

The meeting was held at Linwood Church of the Brethren, which overlooks the site of the proposed training center less than a half-mile away.

The property, owned by Lehigh Cement Co., is surrounded by farms. Lehigh officials announced last month that they would donate 40 acres on McKinstry's Mill Road to the county for the center.

Large aerial photos of the site were displayed for residents, who questioned the kind of buildings, the type of training that would be conducted and when, traffic volume and noise at the center.

Leon Fleming, chairman of the training facility management committee, described the facility and how it would be used.

Preliminary concept plans show 13 buildings, all one or two stories, except for a five-story tower.

The facility would largely be used for indoor classroom work in firefighting, Emergency Medical Services, hazardous materials and rescue technician. Classes would be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday from January to the end of April and August to the end of December.

"There's nothing in the summer, and Friday nights, generally nothing," Fleming said. "Some of the classes, there's no equipment involved except for finalizing classes. The firefighting class is a lot of practical work like rolling hoses and ladder climbing. Burning is done maybe four times in a 34-session class."

Four large pieces of fire apparatus would be at a burning, where "straw and pellets are burned to give the firefighters an idea of what really happens in a building fire," Fleming said.

EMS classes are mostly classroom work, with one class being hands-on practice with an ambulance. Rescue technician classes call for additional equipment such as power tools, he said.

The loudest noise from the center would be when the fire engine emergency air horns are sounded for one minute to alert firefighters to evacuate a structure, he said.

He estimated that 40 to 50 cars a night would be at the center during classes. Occasional weekend training would be conducted, but no one would stay overnight.

About 35 other groups and agencies, such as Maryland State Police, county Department of Public Works and the state Department of Natural Resources, would use the center periodically for daytime indoor classes, Fleming said.

But most residents were displeased about the training center being on farmland.

"We as taxpayers are paying to preserve farmland," said Judy Smith. "This will destroy the farmland around here. It just doesn't fit the area in the middle of this pristine farmland."

Residents applauded when Smith said, "None of us is against having a training center, but it seems like you could put it in an industrial area."

Other residents noted the infrastructure that would be needed to accommodate the facility and worried about the extra traffic and their children's safety in an area where cars speed along the two-lane country road. "Can you give us a commitment for traffic-calming devices if the center is built there?" John Carr asked.

"There's a dairy farm on the lane behind the site," said Edith Knight. "My concern is the dairy industry - the noise and smoke could disrupt the cattle and cause a reduction of milk and hurt the economy of the farmer."

County officials said they planned screening around the site, but church spokesman Richard Blacksten said the congregation can see the center from the hill where the church sits, and Cindy Franz said the center will be directly across from her farm.

Janet Kraus, who lives a mile from the site, said: "Lehigh could build another space shuttle there; the concept plan shows only one entrance and egress, not three or four; and if you have a fire you want these guys to come to your house."

She added, "You would be shocked to know how many other kinds of business could go there" under zoning regulations.

Residents also pointed out that Linwood is on the National Register of Historic Places. The register's Web site says a second nearby site, McKinstry's Mill Historic District at McKinstry's Mill and Sam's Creek roads, also is on the list.

All three commissioners stressed that, while the center is needed, the McKinstry's Mill Road site is not a done deal. "We don't know what we can do until we do core drillings and water and environmental studies," Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. said. "That could be six months to a year."

Richard Green Sr., president of the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association, told the residents that firefighters would prefer a more central location. "We don't want this site to be CCVESA against Linwood," Green said. "But if it is decided on this site, we promise to be a good neighbor."

County officials promised to have a spokesman from the community involved in the planning process and to keep residents updated on the project. A Web page has been set up on the county's Web site, www.ccgovernment. carr.org., about the project.

ellie.baublitz@baltsun.com

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