Prince George’s County will have five questions on the general election ballot asking voters to borrow nearly $500 million to renovate, repair and construct new buildings.
Part of the county’s proposed fiscal 2017-22 capital improvement program includes $66.5 million toward public safety fixtures for the fire department and emergency medical services.
County voters would also decide within that measure whether to use taxpayer dollars to help the police department — a prospect that gives some residents pause.
“I will support the fire department and EMS. If we can’t separate [the question] from police and fire departments, then I will vote ‘no’ on the whole thing,” Sylvia Hawkins of Suitland said Monday, Oct. 3. “The police shootings are happening everywhere. I’m not supporting giving more money to the police when that’s going on.”
Distrust among blacks have become more evident in light of recent nationwide killings by police of unarmed blacks that sparked protests in cities. Some organizers demanded money be stripped from the police department and spent on education, jobs and other community programs.
Locally, protests took place in D.C. after police shot and killed Terrence Sterling, 31, of Fort Washington, on Sept. 11.
Still, some residents such as Charles Ekeya of Bowie say money can make the police department better.
“Not much has gone on here in the county, [so] I think it’s a good idea,” he said in support of the public safety spending plan. “The county should be proactive in having better training and that comes with financing.”
According to the legislation, about 17 projects are listed that include renovating the 1958 Kentland Fire/EMS station in Landover; build a new fire station in Hyattsville to replace the current one built in 1959; and construct a new fire station in Oxon Hill to replace the existing one built in 1952.
In terms of police, the plan includes a new forensics lab in Landover and new police training rooms and administrative offices at the county’s new $22 million complex in Upper Marlboro.
Police and county officials celebrated in April the new complex known as “police plaza” that encompasses a five-story building and another edifice next door that will eventually serve as the department’s headquarters.
One major police project will be the county’s ninth district police station at National Harbor in the vicinity of the Tanger Outlets shopping center and MGM casino and resort, scheduled to open in December.
Although Vernon Hammett of Fort Washington doesn’t live far from the casino, he doesn’t favor borrowing money that “could be better spent” elsewhere.
But another county resident, Robin Harris of Bowie, said the money’s necessary.
“If Prince George’s County can improve the facilities and training for police and all public services, then I’m all for it,” she said while reading the five-page legislation. “You do have good policemen who are trying to make a difference.”