Governor admires new college, police buildings

April 23, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |

HAGERSTOWN — Until Monday, the last time Gov. Martin O’Malley spent so long in Hagerstown was 2008, when the Hub City was Maryland’s Capital for a Day.

This time, O’Malley was back to pay tribute to workers who have died on the job, to tour Hagerstown Community College’s latest academic building and to cut the ribbon for a new Maryland State Police barrack.

On the heels of an unresolved legislative session, O’Malley, a Democrat, focused on two areas targeted for cuts in a recently approved fiscal year 2013 state budget — education and public safety.

While in Hagerstown, O’Malley renewed his call for the legislature to return to Annapolis to approve the rest of a budget package that includes tax increases. However, O’Malley said he, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. haven’t resolved the scope of a special session.

O’Malley’s first stop in Hagerstown was the Central Maryland AFL-CIO Council office on East Franklin Street for a Workers Memorial Day service.

The memorial service, usually observed every April 28, honors workers who have died on the job, as well as members of the armed forces.

It was timely in Hagerstown, where, less than two weeks ago, 18-year-old Mitchell Akers of Smithsburg died after an accident at Municipal Stadium while working for the Hagerstown Suns.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, who grew up with Mitchell’s father, called it a highly improbable “freak accident.”

O’Malley said 69 people died on the job in Maryland in 2010.

“In our state, there’s no such thing as a spare Marylander,” he said. “Each one of those 69 individuals was somebody who was needed, who was loved, who was important to the fabric of our state.”

O’Malley and Del. John P. Donoghue acknowledged Jackie Fouche, the widow of longtime labor stalwart A.G. “Bobby” Fouche, who died in September.

At HCC, O’Malley, Donoghue and other elected officials — including past and current Republicans in the Washington County delegation — visited the 65,000-square-foot Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics building that opened in January.

They learned about the school’s Alternative Energy Technology Program, which prepares students to work in the solar, wind and geothermal fields.

O’Malley chatted with students in the program, including Chris Giannoumis of Waynesboro, Pa., Carl Carney of Newport News, Va., and Carol Seipler of Chewsville.

After holding other jobs, Seipler said, she wanted to try something new and worthwhile.

“If I was going to reinvent myself, I wanted to do something that was going to make a difference,” she told O’Malley.

The group also heard about HCC’s biotechnology program. All four students who spoke also said they are in school for a “second go-round” at establishing a career.

One student — New York native Miche’l Johnson, now of Falling Waters, W.Va. — was applauded when she announced she was accepted to the Columbia School of General Studies to major in biochemistry.

In the only private portion of the day, O’Malley, along with Maryland’s state police superintendent and secretary of public safety, met with law enforcement and criminal justice officials from Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Afterward, O’Malley said Maryland is working with those two states toward agreements to share criminal background information electronically, helping them keep tabs on people and criminal acts across borders.

Maryland has had a similar arrangement with Virginia and Washington, D.C., for a few years.

The same cooperation will begin with Delaware on Friday, O’Malley said.

For a few weeks, Maryland and New York also have been sharing information, according to Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention.

“We have found that by better sharing information across state borders,” O’Malley said, “we’re able to more quickly apprehend those that are wanted on warrants, we’re able to solve more cases and we’re able to reduce violent crime, homicides and as well as other thefts and other things.”

The governor’s last stop was the new state police barrack and Western Maryland crime lab off Sharpsburg Pike.

Police are in the final stages of getting the building ready and expect to move in soon, possibly within a few weeks.

The 33,000-square-foot barrack complex, including a separate vehicle maintenance garage, replaces an aging, much smaller police building that was built in 1973.

Col. Marcus Brown, the superintendent of the state police, said local troopers “wore out the old barrack.”

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