Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

County agencies will not move to Dickerson

Moving parts of the Public Safety Training Academy upcounty ‘didn't make sense'

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Much about the county executive's proposal to relocate several government agencies upcounty from Rockville remains unclear, but one thing is certain: no county agencies will be moved to a 318-acre site near Dickerson.

"We're not looking at moving anything out to the Dickerson area," Diane Schwartz Jones, a county assistant chief administrative officer, said last week.

In December, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) discussed moving a portion of the county Public Safety Training Academy from Rockville to a former Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission sludge entrenchment site in Dickerson. But the idea, which included relocating the academy's driving track, urban search and rescue training facility and burn building to the property, was nixed earlier this year.

"The main reason it was ruled out was really a programmatic issue," Schwartz Jones said. "It was pretty distant from the classroom, and it didn't make sense to remove it from that daily training use."

Leggett's current plan calls for the relocation of seven county agencies from Great Seneca Highway and the County Service Park on Crabbs Brach Way, both in Rockville, to five different properties in the upcounty, including the Webb Tract near the county airpark in Gaithersburg and the GE Tech Park and Finmarc properties off Darnestown Road in Gaithersburg. The goal is to free up for new uses valuable land around the Shady Grove Metro station and the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center.

The Dickerson property, located in the Agricultural Reserve on Elmer School Road, is currently used by county police and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies for outdoor firearms training. Public safety officials were concerned about the non-centralized location and splitting up the training facilities. Residents and officials in the Poolesville area worried about water usage and increased traffic.

The county bought the site in November for $2.38 million after nearly four years of negotiations, according to a July 2007 interagency WSSC memo and state property records. WSSC purchased the property in 1980 for $475,000, according to the memo, and sold all but one of its development rights in 1999. The county had leased 161 acres of the site for $10 a year since 1990 and built a variety of training facilities, the memo states.