ANNAPOLIS -- Dozens of Baltimore City Jail guards packed a meeting of the city's senators yesterday and demanded that they fight any state takeover of the jail, a demand that surprised the senators.
The guards said they feared a state takeover would threaten their rights as city employees. Topping their list of concerns were a possible loss of collective bargaining and seniority and salary differences between city and state employees.
"If you are concerned about the future of Baltimore, then be concerned about the 791 employees of the jail who stand to lose," Loristine Coleman, a 17-year jail employee, told the senators. "Don't let it be said you, whom we endorsed and voted into office, deserted us."
Sen. Julian L. Lapides and the other senators said they see a state takeover as a way to relieve financially strapped Baltimore of a massive, expensive burden. It is estimated that the city spends $38 million-$40 million a year to operate the jail.
"We just can't afford it," Mr. Lapides said.
Mr. Lapides and other senators said that while they sympathized with the jail guards, the best recourse was for guards to work with a city-state task force researching the takeover.
Although the guards directed their attention to a Senate bill calling for a state takeover, Gov. William Donald Schaefer also has proposed such a move.
Governor Schaefer caught many by surprise last month when, during his State of the State address, he announced his intention to have the state take over the City Jail.
Administration officials and legislative budget advisers have been scrambling to determine the effect of a takeover on employees and on the state budget.