Task force explains its jail site choice

August 21, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

County officials, who targeted Glen Burnie for a new 650-bed jail, gave the environment more consideration than they did the people who would live next door, said two members of a task force reviewing the decision.

Their comments came as the county Detention Center/Alternative Sentencing Task Force met Wednesday with county real estate consultants and jail officials. The County Council has refused to finance the $87 million facility on New Ordnance Road until the selection process has been reviewed.

Lola Hand, a Suburbia resident, and Robert Moore, president of the Greater Brooklyn Park Council, which represents several North County neighborhoods, said the county appears to have automatically eliminated potential sites that did not have public sewer service. And that forced it to consider only sites in the northern, more populous end of the county.

"I don't think the county's criteria took into consideration the people in the area," said Ms. Hand, a task force member and resident of he Suburbia community. "Instead, they just counted buildings."

David Blaha, a county real estate consultant, explained the process the county used to select the 85-acre tract on New Ordnance Road last winter. It began in 1991 when county employees scoured tax rolls for potential sites of at least 80 acres, said Mr. Blaha, vice president of John E. Harms Jr. and Associates. At least 50 acres are needed for the jail, which could be expanded to 1,200 beds by the year 2000, and 30 acres are needed as a buffer between the facility and the community, he said.

Eventually, county employees compiled a list of 35 properties. But severe slopes or large wetlands whittled the number of usable sites down to seven, Mr. Blaha said.

The potential sites included the Millersville Landfill, the U.S. Air Force Transmitter Station on the Patuxent River, Crownsville State Hospital, Fort Meade, Lee Airport in Edgewater, the House of Correction in Jessup, several gravel pits, a private rubble landfill and two county parks.

"I went into the process thinking Crownsville would be a good site, but it was one of the first we eliminated," Mr. Blaha said.

Although the property has 1,260 acres, most of the land available for development is occupied by county and state offices, he said.

The House of Correction, Fort Meade and the Air Force station were ruled out because they are state or federal lands and would take too long to acquire, Mr. Blaha said. County officials also eliminated Kinder Park in Severna Park and Beverly Triton Beach in Mayo rather than put a prison in a park.

Three possible sites south of U.S. 50, all gravel mines, were dismissed because they did not have public sewer, Mr. Blaha said. To build the jail on any of those three sites, plans would have to include a small sewage treatment plant, which would discharge effluent into the Patuxent River.

But county officials decided that an individual plant -- which would cost between $2 million and $4 million -- would pollute the river and that obtaining a state permit would be difficult, Mr. Blaha said.

They also ruled out using septic and other alternative sewage systems as being fraught with "potential problems," he said.

Questioned by Mr. Moore, Mr. Blaha conceded that an alternative system might work at Charles County Sand & Gravel on Bestgate Road.

But, he added, "further analysis would be needed."

Mr. Blaha's company recommended three sites with access to sewer: New Ordnance Road, a gravel mine near the National Security Agency, and a Pasadena turkey farm off Mountain Road.

The task force must make its recommendations to the council by Oct. 15.

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