County's Senators Split On Bill To Subsidize Glen Burnie Jail

March 19, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff writer

After a stormy debate, the county Senate delegation reached a deadlock yesterday on a bill to provide $1.25 million in state bond money as a first step in building an $80 million jail in Glen Burnie.

The2-2 vote means that the decision on whether the county will get the money will be up to the Senate Budget and Tax Committee, which is dueto decide today.

Sen. John A. Cade, who argued in favor of the measure, said the 13-member Budget and Tax Committee could pass the measure and should keep an open mind because the county delegation did not reject the bill.

"Right now, it's all up to the committee," said the Republican from District 33.

Chief administrative officer Dennis Parkinson said yesterday's vote means that state money for the 650-bed jail in this legislative session may not be dead, but it "is on a heart-lung machine."

County Executive Robert R. Neall said he would appear before the Budget and Tax Committee today to support the measure and expressed hope that yesterday's deadlock wouldn't kill it. He saidthat ifit fails this year, he will come back next year with a similar request.

"Just remember, people recover from being on a heart-lung machine," he said after the vote.

Sens. Philip C. Jimeno, D-31, and Gerald W. Winegrad, D-30, voted against the measure; Cade and Sen. Michael Wagner, D-32, voted in favor. Sen. Bernie Fowler, D-29, passed, avote that is essentially the same as an abstention.

The County Council, which had been asked to review the measure by state legislators, voted against it, 5-2, Monday night, with opponents citing community opposition.

Neall yesterday argued forcefully for the bond money, saying the proposed site, an 80-acre parcel on New Ordnance Road, is the best of more than 30 properties reviewed by a consultant. He said it is the least expensive site available, and that the county will face additional costs if it fails to act soon.

Neall said that if the bill fails, he will be forced to consider building more jail beds at the Jennifer Road site -- a move that will add $30 million to the project's price tag and mean tearing down a fire station and a maintenance building at the site.

"And you'll still have a terrible facility, and it won't be an improvement," he said.

He added that with the state and federal reviews required for jail construction, work should begin this year for the project to be completed by 1996, when the current jail reaches its capacity.

"I looked at every conceivable alternative to building that (Glen Burnie) jail," Neall said.

Jimeno and Winegrad said they were angry that they learned about the project from newspaper reports, and said they felt the

county would be better served if Neall waited until he could reach an agreement with the County Council on a site.

"I feel uncomfortable about giving a blank check as to the location when so many of my constituents are concerned about that," said Winegrad. "I am still really tickedabout how this whole thing was handled."

He added that he hasn't been kept informed by Neall's office about the issue and that he felthe's been getting a cold shoulder from him, until his recent complaints.

The Republican executive angrily contested that, saying the group should decide based on the merits of the project, not on how word of it got out.

"If that's what this is all about, I'll come overto your office every frigging day, senator. I'll take you out to breakfast every day if you want," Neall said.

In an emotional closingstatement, Neall warned the five senators that they will have to share the blame for the consequences of delays caused by their vote.

"If something goes wrong, if we have cost overruns, if we have administrative problems, if costs go up, and if you don't give me the toolsto do the job, you all have assumed responsibility for this project," he said.

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