Outraged North County residents aside, a proposed 650-bed detention center in Glen Burnie is expected to win approval from both county and state legislators.
County Executive Robert R. Neall refused to back down Friday on plans to build the $80 million jail on 85 acres ofcounty-owned land at an old Army depot on New Ordnance Road, despitethe protests of hundreds of North County residents the night before.
"He said, 'The easy thing to do (politically) would be to expand on the existing site,' " said Louise Hayman, Neall's press secretary." 'But it wouldn't be the right thing to do.' "
Meanwhile, CountyCouncil members and members of Anne Arundel's General Assembly delegation predicted that both bodies would end up endorsing the project. Representatives outside of North County have nothing to gain and muchto lose by voting against the New Ordnance Road site, they said; by voting against it, they increase the odds that the jail could go in their areas.
"Others of my colleagues aren't going to want it in their district," said County Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, D-Severn, whose district includes most of Glen Burnie.
"I would hope the other council members would realize we're trying to serve the entire county, but unfortunately some of them may be a little more parochial."
The council will vote sometime next month on a resolution, requested by Neall, supporting the jail site. Council approval is crucial, because the council will decide whether to include the jail in its newcapital budget.
Other than Middlebrooks, only Councilman George Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat, has voiced public opposition to the plan.
At the state level, a bond bill is pending which, if passed, would give Neall $1.25 million to start designing a Glen Burnie jail, with the county paying another $1.25 million. The executive's plan calls for the state to pay for half of the jail's total cost.
State lawmakers from District 31, which includes North County, say they willoppose the bond bill. An amendment to the bill, sponsored by Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, would require the county to considerother options, including expansion of the existing Jennifer Road detention center in Annapolis.
Delegate Patrick Scannello, D-Glen Burnie, said he will vote against the bond bill. "The county claims (thejail site) is isolated, but, hell, you can throw a rock in any direction and hit a house," Scannello said.
Delegate Phil Bissett, R-Mayo, said he was more willing to consider other sites after hearing how intensely North County residents opposed the jail.
Still, most of the delegation members are expected to pass the bond bill.
"There's going to be a detention center, period," said Delegate Victor Sulin, D-Glen Burnie. "It's (the executive's) determination as to where he wants it. If he comes to us for money, it's our duty to try to obtain the funds."
The citizens who packed the Glen Burnie High School auditorium Thursday night argued that North County has enough undesirable manufacturing plants, landfills and chemical plants in its back yard already.
A jail, they predicted, would lower property values and pose a safety threat. They also argued the money needed to build it would be better spent on schools or the homeless, and said they objected to giving inmates a "waterfront view."
The jail would siton a piece of land bordered by Furnace, Marley and Curtis creeks, though it does not front on water.
"This may not be the Hilton on the Hudson," said Dolores Barnes of Concerned Citizens for a Better Brooklyn, "but it will be the Castle on the creek."