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Sheriff, town police to share building

Ingrid Mezo

(8/11) The Frederick Board of County Commissioners voted 4-0 Tuesday to allow the Sheriff's Office to share a building Thurmont plans to build for its police department.

The county agreed to spend $75,000 to design the building, an amount that matches the town's initial contribution. The town hopes the building will be ready to open in July 2007, Commissioner Glenn Muth said.

Sharing the building is a "win-win" situation, Muth said. Since the county planned to build satellite police stations anyway, the partnership between the Sheriff's Office and the town will save county taxpayers money.

While sheriff's deputies have been assigned to patrol some areas of north county, some towns like Emmitsburg sometimes only have one deputy working in the town. It can take nearly 45 minutes at certain times of the day for deputies coming from Frederick city barracks to assist with calls in the north county to reach the area to provide backup assistance, Sheriff James Hagy said.

Being stationed in Thurmont would allow deputies to respond quicker to calls. "This is more about the whole north end of the county than just Thurmont," Hagy said.

The jointly owned building will keep deputies on the street and increase the police presence in the northern part of the county, Muth said. This will allow for increased police protection for residents, and more deputies will be visible in the town.

Thurmont town officials would have built the new police building either way, Mayor Martin Burns said, since the town's residents overwhelmingly asked the town to keep its police department despite some recruitment and retention problems the department has.

"We're not looking for a handout," Burns said. "The land is free [to the county], and we're using an economy of scale to get the best bang for the buck for all county taxpayers."

In addition, having both sheriff's deputies and town police in one building will allow for "cross-pollinization" between the departments, allowing them to work more effectively together by having more immediate access to computer files and paperwork, Muth said.

Muth also pointed out the ongoing operational cost savings on things like fuel, and vehicle wear and tear for sheriff's deputies.

The town will have to pay less overall for the building, both for its construction and for its operation and management, since the county will share in this cost, based on the percentage of the building each agency uses, Muth said.

In a preliminary analysis conducted by the town, the town's police force will occupy 8,500 square feet of the building, which is significantly larger than what the sheriff's department will use. The town's police force requires more space since they will also be using the building to provide a lockup area for suspects, a reception area, and to store weapons, evidence, supplies and other equipment.

The county will provide construction planning and management costs since the town is providing the land.

The town is funding its part of the building with a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has "more employees than there are farmers in this country," Muth said, and can be used as a "lender of last resort."

The Thurmont police department has a full strength of 12 officers, and is looking toward expansion in the future, Burns said.

"We have four officers working now, one on sick leave, two that just graduated from the sheriff's academy and have a month-and-a-half of field training left, and two more in the Maryland police academy in Sykesville," Thurmont Police Department Interim Chief Ted Nee said.

The sheriff's department will probably also have around 12 deputies working out of the building, Hagy said. "There are 14 or 15 deputies who live in Thurmont right now," Hagy said.

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