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Police training facility won't be at Fort Ritchie

January 29, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - A police training center won't be housed at the abandoned Fort Ritchie army base.

Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, arranged a meeting Thursday between the PenMar Development Corp., which is redeveloping Fort Ritchie, and state officials who are to select a site for the training center.

Afterward, both sides agreed it was not a good match.

From PenMar's perspective, a police training center would not bring with it many jobs or increase the tax base.

From the Maryland Office of Planning's perspective, the mountainous area in northeastern Washington County is too far from most of the people who would use the center.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised. Because we're in a rural area we knew it would be a big stretch," Hecht said.

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Maryland Office of Planning Director Ronald M. Kreitner said the site selection committee he chairs is looking for an urban setting.

Ideally, the center should be close to the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, he said.

An estimated 500 to 600 law enforcement and correctional officers would use the center every day, he said.

The state is looking for a neighborhood that could be revitalized by the center and where a police presence would deter crime.

PenMar is marketing a Lakeside Corporate Campus at Fort Ritchie that just doesn't fit the bill.

"With the economic development goals you have up there, I think it would come up short. You have the potential to attract significant private investment there," Kreitner said.

Also, putting a police training center in a rural area doesn't fit the philosophy of Smart Growth, Kreitner said.

That is why the site selection committee got started in the first place.

The center was planned for Sykesville, Md., in Carroll County since 1990.

A $10 million police driver training course opened there last year and a $5 million police shooting range is under construction.

Total cost for the center would have been $53 million.

But Gov. Parris Glendening said last week that the site was not compatible with Smart Growth and called for a new site search.

Lawmakers from Carroll County are not happy about the governor's decision and are lobbying to keep it there.

"I think that $15 million of the taxpayers' money has been spent already on this facility. It would be like throwing it away," said Del. Nancy Stocksdale, R-Carroll.

Hecht said state officials have made it clear they don't want the project to go to rural Carroll or Washington counties.

But she said she thought Thursday's meeting was still productive.

If nothing else, it gave PenMar Executive Director Robert P. Sweeney a chance to remind state officials about Fort Ritchie's economic development promise, she said.

Sweeney gave marketing brochures to Kreitner and Deputy Director Ronald N. Young after the meeting.

Even though Fort Ritchie did not comply with Smart Growth philosophy in this case, the area will be designated as a Smart Growth area because of the utilities, roads and buildings waiting to be used there.

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