FORT WASHINGTON – Some movement is better than no movement as far as some residents in District 7 are concerned. Gerald Lucas, a Fort Washington resident from the Tantallon Civic Association, said although he is disappointed the station will not open on its originally anticipated date this fall, having it gradually open is better than […]
FORT WASHINGTON – Some movement is better than no movement as far as some residents in District 7 are concerned.
Gerald Lucas, a Fort Washington resident from the Tantallon Civic Association, said although he is disappointed the station will not open on its originally anticipated date this fall, having it gradually open is better than nothing.
County Executive Rushern Baker III met with community leaders last week, according to Lucas who attended the meeting, to explain his plan for opening the facility. Baker plans on having 10 officers in the building by the end of October, Lucas said, and potentially 30 by January.
“It’s not a question of do we think it is acceptable,” Lucas said. “We don’t have a choice. It is better than nothing or not having it open at all. It would be unacceptable for there to be no activity at all come September when it was supposed to be available to us.”
The Baker administration plans on incrementally adding up to 30 officers over the next few months, according to Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Baker. Once the building construction is completed, Peterson said, a small administrative team will occupy it.
“In January 2016 we are looking to add 30 officers and we will continue to incrementally add more officers as we identify funding that will get us to a minimum of 50 officers by September 2016,” Peterson said. “It was never our intention to leave the building vacant. We wanted the community leaders to understand that opening this station has been and continues to be important to the Baker administration.”
Residents were promised this police station 15 years ago, Lucas said, and they are still waiting on its completion. The postponement of the station puts residents in southern Prince George’s County in a position where they have been treated like “second class citizens once again,” Lucas said.
There are obviously issues between Baker and the County Council, Lucas said, and because of those issues, funding is not being provided for the completion of the station.
“Are we disillusioned? Yes we are. Are we upset? Yes we are,” Lucas said. “Not only in the county executive, but we’re disillusioned by the whole process. We think that somehow, resources that are available in Upper Marlboro should be made available for this station.”
Two weeks ago County Council Chairman Mel Franklin said there is funding available for the timely completion of this project. According to Franklin, the council left $25 million in their approved budget for emergency funds from two percent cuts by each county agency. That money could be used for this station, Franklin said.
“There is $25 million in the county’s budget for contingency purposes or emergencies and this building is an emergency,” Franklin said. “If we can afford a brand new headquarters for county government, then we can certainly afford to have a police station opened in Fort Washington.”
Richard Krueggar, also a Fort Washington resident, said that having this station opened gradually is not as good as having it completely opened this fall. He is concerned that there may be a drop in police service because of the strategy Baker is applying.
“I’m worried that it can conduct full public safety functions with the lack of any of the civilian slots being filled,” Krueggar said. “That also means that those few sworn officers there would have to be doing a lot of the administrative work. But it is probably better than nothing.”
The biggest advantage of the District 7 station opening up is not only for Fort Washington, but South County in its entirety, Krueggar said. The drive for the station is not simply because Accokeek needs more police coverage, he said, but because the distribution of officers around the southern portion of the county needed to increase.
The big area of dependence for this station makes the need for its opening even more essential, Krueggar said.
“I’ve been fighting for it for 15 years,” Krueggar said. “And even at groundbreaking, it was promised that it would be online even before now. It’s slipped for two years, and now it’ll slip for three and a half years. In that regard, we’ve been experiencing disappointment for three years now.”
Still, Krueggar said, some coverage is better than no coverage at all. And the county’s police department has said they will continue to serve in the area while the station is gradually opening. Baker, when running for election, said opening this police station would be a priority, Krueggar said, and that has changed. Still, his perception of the Baker administration has not changed much overall.
Lucas agreed. He said Baker has been a good county executive overall, and even with this disappointment, he thinks Baker is better than previous county executives.
“That is certainly disappointing. How much that affects what might be general appraisals of the county executive, I don’t know,” Krueggar said. “It’s an important part, but when addressed on overall performance it is a minor portion of that overall performance.”