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Howard County breaks ground on new fire station

Population growth testing public safety services
Posted at 5:23 PM, Aug 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-29 18:18:37-04

JESSUP, Md. — With shovels in hand, Howard County broke ground on the future home of Waterloo Fire Station Number 12 on six acres that represented an expensive gift from the state.

"This was a state-owned property that really was valued at about $3.5 million, but we transferred it to the county for one dollar," said Governor Larry Hogan.

A virtual explosion in development along the Route 1 corridor has taxed existing fire stations in nearby Savage and Elkridge, which are also responsible for service along Interstate 95, and more growth is projected for the area.

"We anticipate the growth in the next 10 years, residentially, to increase by about 12,000 and that doesn't include the businesses and the growth that has already happened in this community," said Howard County Fire Chief Christine Uhlhorn.

For all of its planning, the county is suffering growing pains with a need for a new high school in its eastern reaches driving school redistricting, and infrastructure is also struggling to keep up.

"We are a welcoming community and we've seen, just in this fire station that's been on the books for 10 years, how much growth we'll be looking at for the last few decades," said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.

But the fastest rate of growth of any county in Maryland over the last decade, more than 12 percent, finds the county playing catch up.

"How do people come in? There might be, for example, the years of base realignment and closure where BRAC was a big thing, and we had a lot of military families come in here and Anne Arundel,” Ball said. “There was a bump that may not have been anticipated a decade before."

Once the construction is completed, the new fire station, which will also house a police satellite, will bring better response times and a new level of safety to its ever-growing number of neighbors surrounding it.

As a bonus, the county is hoping to use the money saved by the state's land donation for the fire station to help pay for costly projects to help prevent flooding in historic Ellicott City.