Compromise reached to enable state to take over City Jail

March 27, 1991|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Evening Sun Staff

A joint House-Senate committee has developed a compromise plan that would enable the state to take over the City Jail, a step that its proponents say would save the city millions of dollars a year.

Within hours of the deal being finalized yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of it. It still must be approved by the full House of Delegates and the Senate, but a city official said he was "highly optimistic" of its passage.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer pushed for the takeover in response to requests from the city.

The takeover would be accompanied by a loss to the city of $38 million in police aid from the state treasury. But operating costs at the jail are $43 million a year and rising, meaning the action would produce a net savings for the city.

The plan would provide some of the benefits protection sought by the 800 jail workers but would not guarantee them jobs after the state took over the facility. Most of the workers would be expected, however, to become state employees with no loss in pay should the takeover occur, officials said.

"We were thinking of the employees," said Sen. William H. Amoss, D-Harford, a co-chairman of the special House-Senate committee that negotiated the compromise.

Most of the workers would have the option of staying with the city pension plan or joining the state plan. They would lose some of the collective-bargaining rights they now enjoy as city workers.

The city successfully averted a provision that would have allowed the state to cancel the deal if certain court orders, which the jail is now operating under, were not dropped.

The transfer to state control would begin June 1. The facility would be renamed the Baltimore City Detention Center and would become part of a sprawling criminal justice complex that includes the adjacent state prison. The takeover legislation would require the opening of a centralized booking facility by 1993 at the site.

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