By Hunter Hine, Staff Writer
(April 6, 2023) The Maryland Department of General Services and Maryland State Police are hosting the ground-breaking ceremony for Berlin Barrack V’s reconstruction, tomorrow at 11 a.m.
The project actually began Jan. 17, said Barrack V Commander Lt. Earl Starner. The Department of General Services contracted the $26.8 million project to Keller Brothers Inc. from Mount Airy, Maryland, according to a press release.
Barrack V is expected to be completed by July 2024, Starner said.
“There’s going to be a lot more space and the infrastructure upgrade is going to really enhance the law enforcement services that we provided on the Eastern Shore for almost half a century now,” said MSP Spokesperson Elena Wendell-Russo.
Maj. Jon Armiger, of the MSP logistics command, is emceeing the event, Russo said.
Armiger will introduce Secretary of the Department of General Services Atif Chaudhry, who will be followed by Maryland Lt. Governor Aruna Miller. Also scheduled to speak is MSP Superintendent Col. Roland Butler, as well as Starner and Daniel Katz, director of MSP forensic sciences division.
After the speaking portion of the ceremony, everyone will wear hard hats and put golden shovels to dirt as they make the ground breaking official, Russo said.
The Berlin Barrack was originally built in 1976 and became operational in 1977, Starner said.
As a 46-year-old building, much of the its infrastructure is either obsolete or no longer able to adequately serve the MSP, Starner said. He compared it to an old car.
“Through the years, you love your car, it serves you well, and one day you wake up and the car is old, and it’s breaking down a lot,” Starner said
Starner has a long history with Barrack V, joining as its assistant commander in 2001. He served as commander of the Easton Barrack beginning in 2006 before returning to the Berlin Barrack as commander in 2007. He’s been there ever since.
“That is almost an anomaly. That’s unheard of for somebody to be in place that long. So I’ve been the commander now for more than 15 years,” Starner said. “Obviously, in that time, we develop a lot of connections and relationships with our allied partners and our community here.”
Planning for Barrack V’s upgrade started in 2017, Starner said. MSP received design funds from the legislature in 2019 for the 2020 fiscal year.
Barrack V’s demolition and construction are broken into two phases, so as not to disrupt MSP operations in Berlin, according to the press release.
Phase one is already underway, meaning the back wing of the old barrack, which contained offices, a bathroom and the processing room, has already been demolished, Starner said.
MSP repurposed and consolidated rooms in the remaining wing to compensate for the loss.
Duty officers, who work only at the barrack, and troopers based out of the barrack have all moved into the remaining wing.
Almost all MSP special units who worked out of the back wing, like criminal investigators, have moved to offices elsewhere.
“We’re still 100 percent fully operational, out of the hub, the part here that remains,” Starner said.
After phase one is complete, MSP will move operations into the new wing, Starner said.
The remaining old barrack will then be demolished, and, among other improvements, the new barrack laboratory will begin construction there.
The lab will connect to the new wing to form a 24,000-square-foot building, according to the press release. Wanda Kuperus, deputy director of the MSP forensic sciences division, said that the old barrack had a small lab that only covered analysis of seized drugs. It is only one of two satellite labs for MSP, with the other being in Hagerstown, she said.
The new lab will include capabilities to test controlled and dangerous substances, latent prints (fingerprints that cannot be seen by the naked eye), toxicology, crime scenes and computer crimes, according to architectural design firm MW Studios, who designed the new barrack.
“We’ll be able to hire a few new people (in the lab), probably three new people or so in Berlin,” Kuperus said. “That will be a nice opportunity for some people in the community to get a job with the Maryland State Police.”
After reconstruction, Barrack V will be only the second MSP barrack to have a fenced-in back parking area with access controlled by duty officers, Starner said.
The first barrack to have the feature is Cumberland, which is Maryland’s newest barrack until Berlin’s is finished.
“We took a lot of the ideas from there (Cumberland Barrack), and sort of moved them over here,” Starner said.
A sally port, or an area where MSP vehicles can unload and transfer detained individuals, will be added to the barrack.
The port will create a more secure atmosphere during the prisoner transitions, Starner said.
The new barrack will also feature general improvements in technology, such as camera systems and programmable ID cards so MSP can control who has access to certain rooms, Starner said.
“First and foremost, I would tell you that, security, always high on our list of priorities,” Starner said.
A new classroom, which will have much greater seating capacity compared to the old one, will be added so that more officers can be trained or briefed at one time.
“We bring in sometimes, for the events in Ocean City, we bring in more than 100 troopers a day sometimes so that’s a large deployment of people,” Starner said. “When we bring them in for events, we do briefings, operational briefings, and a lot of times I have so many troopers that we don’t even do them here (the old barrack). We’ll do them at another facility often in Ocean City.”
The Barrack V garage, where troopers have cars serviced by MSP employed mechanics, has already been vacated, so Berlin-based troopers now take their patrol cars to the Princess Anne Barrack’s garage.
Eventually, a new 4,400-square-foot service garage will take its place, according to a press release.
Parking availability will grow with the new barrack after a large public parking area is added to the front of the building, Starner said.
The old barrack used to have bunk rooms for troopers to stay for prolonged deployment, but those rooms have since been repurposed, Starner said. The new building will have new bunk rooms to fill that void.
MSP and the barrack designers made it a priority for the barrack to be more visible from Route 50 after construction, Starner said.
“It was important to me to have the new barrack be closer to (Route) 50 to be sort of the you know, it’s sort of our brand putting our barracks out there and just being more visible,” Starner said.
As the final cherry-on-top, the new barrack will feature an homage to the old building. Bricks from the original barrack will be inlaid in the shape of a “V,” in the concrete of the front entrance’s sidewalk.
“I’ll think of the people that have worked here or that I’ve worked with over the years. That doesn’t really go away,” Starner said. “The building itself, like I said, I have incredibly fond memories of my time here, my service here, my commitment to the State Police, my commitment to the community. With that said, I’m ready for a new building.”