Booking facility supported

June 18, 2003|by TARA REILLY

A central booking facility for area police departments got some backing Tuesday from the Washington County Commissioners, who agreed to partially pay for design services and endorsed seeking additional financial help from the state.

Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades told the commissioners the proposed facility would cost between $1.5 million and $2 million, but the state might pay half of the construction costs.

"This is just the first step, but it's the right step in the right direction," Mades said Tuesday afternoon by phone.


The actions by the commissioners mark the first time a central booking facility has received official backing since the idea was proposed by Mades and Hagers-town Police Chief Arthur Smith several years ago, Mades said.

The facility would be in the Washington County Detention Center. Renovations would begin in 2008 or 2009 if the state agrees to pay for some of the project.

Local police agencies have supported a central booking facility, saying it would speed up the arrest process. Such a center would rely on correctional officers to process arrests, allowing law enforcement officers to get back on the streets faster, police officials have said.

About eight new correctional employees would be needed to process arrests, Mades has said.

The commissioners gave Mades the authority to apply to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for funding.

The Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly must agree to submit a state bond bill in order for the county to receive state dollars to pay for 50 percent of the construction costs, Mades said. The county and the city would share the remaining construction costs, he said.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval estimated the city and county each would pay $300,000 to $400,000 if the state share comes through.

Mades said the facility is dependent on receiving money from the state.

"If they say there's no money available, then it is a dead issue," he told the commissioners.

The commissioners on Tuesday agreed to pay for half of the cost of retaining architectural services costing up to $5,000. They said they would ask the City of Hagerstown to pay for the other half of that cost.

City Councilwoman Penny Nigh told the commissioners she didn't think it would be a problem for the city to pay that share.

If the city decided not to contribute half, or about $2,500, Nigh said she would hold a fund-raiser to come up with the money.

Nigh said construction costs might be lower than anticipated and that she and others are looking at other financial avenues.

Mades and Smith have said the Hagerstown Police Department would benefit the most from a central booking facility because city police make more arrests than the other police departments in the county.

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