An Annapolis man who headed a citizens advisory committee that studied the need for a new county jail six years ago was elected chairman of the panel that will tackle the same issue again.
Nicholas Demos was selected by unanimous voice vote Thursday night to head the 11-member Detention Center/Alternative Sentencing Task Force. He chaired a citizens advisory committee in 1986 that recommended a new detention center be built in the county by 1994.
Mr. Demos, a former chief of the corrections unit in the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance, now supervises alcohol and drug abuse demonstration programs at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The current committee was formed after the County Council refused to allocate money to build a new prison on Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie after residents complained that it would adversely affect the environment and their communities.
County Executive Robert R. Neall is pushing for construction of the $87 million prison, which he says is needed because the current detention center on Jennifer Road in Annapolis has a capacity of 400 and already houses 600 inmates. Detention center officials estimate that the inmate population will reach 1,200 by 2000.
The committee is comprised of seven members appointed by the council, one representing each district. Mr. Neall appointed four members to the committee, including Mr. Demos, who said in the meeting that he was a strong advocate of building a new prison, "which I hoped would be addressed by the previous administration but which was purposefully left for the current administration."
Robert Monroe, president of the Greater Brooklyn Park Association of Councils, was elected vice chairman. Mr. Monroe, who opposes the proposed prison site in Glen Burnie, was appointed to the committee by Councilman George F. Bachman.
Mr. Monroe said after the meeting that the North County has been overdeveloped and that other parts of the county should share in the burden of having public facilities put in their neighborhoods.
"It just seems to me that everything that's been negative in my lifetime has been put in the North County," he said.
The committee will meet weekly on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. in the Arundel Center and is scheduled to report its findings to the council by Oct. 15.
Some committee members expressed concern that the deadline would not give them enough time to adequately consider the issues. "If the committee is really serious about resolving some of these problems, six to eight weeks doesn't seem like a lot of time to meet," said Lola Hand, who represents the 3rd District.
But detention center Superintendent Richard J. Baker emphasized the need for a quick decision.
"The concern I have is the need for the facility exists now," Mr. Baker said. The prison will take five years to build "and we already lack the space the projections indicate we need after 1995."