Prince George’s County officials broke ground Tuesday, Nov. 22 along the base of the Potomac River for a public-safety pier complex, which they said is a necessity on the eve of the new MGM casino at the National Harbor.
With next week’s grand opening of the $1.4 billion casino resort and other events at the Harbor, officials said the pier will help protect the public by land and water.
“This becomes important because…with MGM coming [and] with development happening around this area, public safety becomes paramount not just in Prince George’s County, but in this whole Washington region,” County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said. “The volume of people that are not going to come into National Harbor … not just on special occasions, but daily. The ability to have a presence all the time is now necessary.”
Although D.C. and Virginia have water rescue crews and emergency personnel, county fire department Chief Marc Bashoor said the county oversees a portion of the river from the future dock at National Harbor to the Virginia shoreline.
Bashoor said the response time to send boats from the dock at the Fort Washington Marina to National Harbor is about 21 minutes.
“That is just not acceptable,” he said. “Having this pier here at this location … where most of our call volume is … will be at a place for years to come.”
Bashoor said the pier will house at least three boats for the fire department, three for the Police Department and a few more boat lifts for federal and local agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard and police and fire crews from Virginia.
He said about $2.6 million has already been appropriated for the project, with construction to start in the spring and possibly open by late next year.
The county will receive a financial boost after 85 percent of voters in this month’s election permitted officials to borrow $66.5 million for public-safety use.
According to the legislation, about 17 projects are listed, including renovation of the 1958 Kentland Fire/EMS station in Landover, a new fire station in Hyattsville to replace the current one built in 1959 and a new fire station in Oxon Hill to replace the existing one built in 1952.
The police would receive 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 opening of a complex known as “police plaza,” which encompasses a five-story building and another edifice next door to house the department’s new headquarters currently in Palmer Park.
One major police project will be the county’s 9th District police station at National Harbor in the vicinity of the Tanger Outlets shopping center and the MGM resort.
Police Chief Hank Stawinski said the department has about a half-dozen officers trained to dive, man boats and perform other water safety functions. The police will also monitor individuals who may drink while operating boats and provide regional support for emergencies that include homeland security.
“This gives us another method and approach to resolve issues,” he said. “This is a life-saving mission for us.”