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Downtown squad, police academy may find new home at USM center

November 26, 2003|by BOB MAGINNIS

The downtown squad of the Hagerstown Police Department could be headquartered in the University System of Maryland's Hagerstown Education Center, if details can be worked out, an official of Frostburg State University said on Tuesday.

Frostburg will manage the facility for the university system and Roger Bruszewski, FSU's vice president of administration and finance, said he spoke to HPD Chief Arthur Smith about the matter last week.

Bruszewski said if details can be worked out, he presence of police would reassure students that coming to the center at night is safe.

The USM Center should be open by the time the police are ready to move in, FSU officials told me, because construction is on schedule, as is the search for a center director.

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Lt. William C. Wright, head of the Hagerstown Police Department's downtown squad, said Jim Shaw, director of the local FSU Center, has been very interested in bringing HPD to the new building.

What's being talked about, Wright said, is moving both the downtown squad and the Western Maryland Police Academy to the site.

The downtown squad would need a street-level office so officers could respond quickly to calls on their bicycles, and an office for whoever heads it up, Wright said.

Another large room would be required for police academy training, which he said usually takes a class of 22 through 24 weeks' training.

For the other six months of the year, the same room could be used for required police in-service training, Wright said.

Finally, another office would be needed for the academy's training officer, mainly to store course materials.

"It would bring a police presence right into the university and right into the heart of downtown," Wright said.

But talks to make it happen are continuing, he said, because "we don't know how much space they're going to be able to offer us."

As for the construction part of the project, FSU's Bruszewski said it's on budget and on time, adding that crews are now enclosing the building before winter sets in, so inside work can be done.

And Bruszewski said that another team, including information-technology specialists, is working to determine what's needed in each classroom.

"We're trying to identify where all the wires should go and what types of technology should go in each room," he said.

It takes more than desks and a blackboard to make a modern classroom. At USM's Shady Grove Center, for example, some student desks have built-in plugs so students can use laptop computers to take notes in class.

Bruszewski also said there will be a community room, to replace the one now used by FSU when those students move to the new center.

On the academic side, Stephen Simpson, FSU's provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the top job right now is getting a director for the facility.

USM officials have previously described the job as requiring a combination of academic leadership, diplomacy and marketing skills.

Not only will the director run the institution, but he or she will also work out agreements with other USM colleges to offer courses here and recruit students from places like Hagerstown Community College.

And much as Elizabeth Morgan has become the public face of the Washington County school system, the UMS director will be the person citizens associate with the new center.

Simpson said there were about 30 applicants for the post. He said officials met last Friday to trim down the list and assign committee members to do reference checks.

"We expect interviews to occur in December and we'd like to offer the job in December," Simpson said.

A copy of the job description provided by Simpson states that the new director must be able to organize a program, deal with multiple levels of oversight and advisory groups and be an excellent writer and speaker.

The job description doesn't require the director to live in the community, Simpson said, but all applicants live in the region and most have said they'll relocate if hired.

Though the director will be hired almost a full year before the center opens, Simpson's description of the position's duties make it clear that there won't be a lack of work for whoever is chosen.

"The director is going to play a very important role in setting up the infrastructure, determining what other staff is necessary, who to hire and when," Simpson said.

For the sake of all those who aspire to be students there, I can only hope that the same amount of effort is going into obtaining the $1.8 million in operating funds the center will need to open by January of 2005.

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