Support Collapses For New Glen Burnie Jail

Most County Senators Expected To Oppose Bill

March 18, 1992|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

Plans for a 650-bed jail in Glen Burnie were in death throes yesterday as Anne Arundel senators withdrew support for the project.

County Executive Robert R. Neall's hope that state lawmakers would approve $1.25 million in design money for the $80 million detention center project began dwindling Monday night, when the County Council refusedto back the detention center site.

Since then, the chairman of the Senate delegation, Brooklyn Park Democrat Philip C. Jimeno, has been working frantically to block the bond bill that includes the design money. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee is scheduled to consider the bond bill tomorrow.

Without the support of the county's five senators, the bill is almost certain to fail. A majority of those senators are expected to oppose the bill.

"We're beating a dead horse here," said Sen. Michael Wagner, a Ferndale Democrat. "It was dead after (Monday) night. Now we're going to stab it one more time, just in case."

Based on a consultant's study of 37 potential sites, Neall chose an 80-acre parcel on New Ordnance Road for the detention center. Once part of the federal Curtis Bay Depot, the land was purchased by the county in the early 1980s.

The council -- under pressure from North County opponents -- seriously hindered the project's chances Monday night by voting, 5-2, against Neall's resolution seeking support for the site.

The threeNorth County representatives -- Linthicum Democrat George Bachman, Severn Democrat Edward Middlebrooks and Pasadena Republican Carl G. "Dutch" Holland -- were expected to side with their constituents. Council Chairman David G. Boschert, a Crownsville Democrat, and Councilwoman Virginia P. Clagett, a Democrat from West River, also voted against the resolution.

Only Arnold Republican Diane Evans and AnnapolisDemocrat Maureen Lamb backed Neall.

The state has never approved a bond bill without the local jurisdiction's backing, Jimeno said.

Only Annapolis Republican Sen. John A. Cade -- a Neall ally -- is expected to vote in favor of the bond bill.

Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad,an Annapolis Democrat, said he hasn't made up his mind.

"I don't know if we should commit $1 million to design a jail at that site if the County Council doesn't support it," said Winegrad, who also questioned the wisdom of spending so much on a jail in tough economic times. Under the proposal, the state and county would each pay $40 million toward the detention center.

Winegrad also said he wants to knowwhat future detention center site options the county has if the GlenBurnie site is scrapped.

Wagner said he believes the state shouldapprove design money for a jail, but not on New Ordnance Road.

"Ipersonally don't find the site at Ordnance Road objectionable," he said. "If they put a new jail there, I don't think it would be any different than a new Hechinger's.

"But my constituents oppose it, so I have to oppose it. If that sounds political, that's where I am."

Sen. Bernie Fowler, a Calvert County Democrat, could not be reached for comment.

With or without the design money, Neall intends to include a new detention center in his capital budget, to be submitted to the council in May. He sent a letter to Boschert yesterday asking the council to recommend a site in time for inclusion in the capital budget.

Boschert responded that it's not the council's job to choose sites for capital projects. "We are not by law authorized to find any locations for anything. That comes under authority of the executive branch," he said.

Boschert and other council members question the need to move quickly on a new jail. They say they are more concerned about education, police and services for seniors.

"Once we address those issues, then we'll talk about the prison," Boschert said. "The prison, in my opinion, is not a high priority. (The prisoners) have made their bed. Let them lie in it."

Despite the impending opening of an addition to the existing detention center in Annapolis, detention center officials say the facility will be filled by 1997. Neallwanted a new jail ready at that time.

The council "seems to be ignoring facts," said Louise Hayman, Neall's press secretary. "Nobody wants to face the unpleasant reality that there is overcrowding.

"It becomes a public safety issue," Hayman said. "The first time there's an escape or an incident as a result of overcrowding, the public will realize" why a jail is needed.

Staff writer John A. Morris contributed to this article.

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