“Queen Anne’s County officials said the U.S. State Department is considering buying roughly 1,500 acres in Ruthsburg to build an 180,000-square-foot training facility, shooting ranges and a defensive driving course for security personnel. County Chief Operating Officer Gregg Todd said the Hunt Ray Farm property at state routes 304 (Ruthsburg Road) and 481 (Damsontown Road) is one of about five sites being considered by the State Department for the facility. The other sites under consideration are in West Virginia and Virginia. According to a statement from the county, embassy security personnel are trained at 19 facilities across the United States, and the State Department wants all the training done at one national facility.
Todd said the State Department could make a decision on what property the federal government will buy in about two weeks. The commissioners agreed to send a letter to the State Department saying the board supports the Hunt Ray Farm property as the site for the training facility. The commissioners are asking the State Department to hold a public information meeting at the Ruthsburg Community Hall to explain their plans to local residents.
The statement from the county said the State Department facility “”would be campus-like and comprise the training facilities necessary for both the hard and soft skills associated with diplomatic security training.”” It would include indoor and outdoor shooting ranges; defensive terrorist avoidance driver training; munitions identification and detection; building security and clearing; armored vehicle storage; and, training in languages, engineering and information technology. About 10,000 people a year would be trained at the facility.
Hunt Ray Farm includes several parcels that total about 1,505 acres. Todd said most of the site is located south of Route 304 and west of Route 481, but part of the property is east of Route 481. Currently, there is a subdivision plan for 110 single-family homes planned on the Hunt Ray Farm property, although that plan has not yet been approved by the county planning commission. County Commission President Gene Ransom said he would prefer the training facility to 110 new homes in a rural area.
“”I think it’s an exciting prospect,”” said Commissioner Eric Wargotz. He has concerns about parts of the plan, including the shooting ranges, the munitions detection training and storing armored vehicles on the site. If the State Department selects the Ruthsburg site, then the federal government should fund construction of the interchange planned for U.S. Route 301 and state Route 304, said Commissioner Courtney Billups.
The county statement said the facility is estimated to cost $150- to $500-million to build, and construction would be done in phases over four to five years. The facility would employ 150 full-time State Department employees and 150 to 200 contractual employees. County officials found out about the project about two weeks ago, said Todd. He said property owners responded to requests for the proposal in June from the State Department, which is looking for a site that is within 150 miles of Washington, D.C. and has at least 1,250 acres. He said the State Department received about 30 proposals, which it narrowed to about five.