Planned jail site is again rejected Panel member cites conflicting results on carcinogen tests

October 09, 1992|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

For the second time this year, the New Ordnance Road property favored by County Executive Robert Neall for a new 650-bed jail has been rejected, this time by a task force the executive proposed last summer.

Bob Moore, vice chairman of the Detention Center Siting and Alternative Sentencing Task Force, said the 85-acre site was rejected because of conflicting carcinogen test results from two studies done by the same Gaithersburg consulting firm.

Mr. Moore, president of the Greater Brooklyn Park Association of Councils, said Woodward-Clyde did two soil studies on the property, one in 1989 for a soda company and one for the county in 1991. In the 1989 study, the readings for carcinogens were far above normal standards. But in the study done for the county, the readings were much lower.

"I really needed to know why they were different," he said. "They said they used different methods for testing in each study. So I wanted to know if I could go back to Coca-Cola and tell them the land was fine, but they said that wouldn't be done."

Neall spokeswoman Louise Hayman said the executive had not had time to review the recommendation and would not comment.

Mr. Moore said the vote Wednesday night was 6 to 3. Two task force members were not present.

The vote marks the second time the site has been nixed. In the spring, under intense pressure from North County residents, the County Council voted down the site and Mr. Neall came up with the idea for a committee to study the issue. Seven of the 11 are council appointees, while the remaining four were appointed by Mr. Neall.

Lola Hand, a member of the task force and Glen Burnie resident, voted against the site and said she thought it was wrong from the start.

"The environmental problems are always going to be there," she said. "And I feel that the site should be one that is not heavily populated."

Last week, the task force turned down the Konterra property in West County, citing the $92 million price tag for land, development and reimbursement costs to a sand and gravel company that operates there, Mr. Moore said.

"With these high costs, and [Mr. Neall] is supposed to be such a cost-conscious person," Ms. Hand said. "I don't understand this."

Mr. Moore said the committee will continue to study four remaining sites: the Pumphrey property, 132 acres on Veterans Highway near county police headquarters; a 263-acre parcel along River Road in South County; the Fisher property, 159 acres Route 97 near Crownsville State Hospital Center, and 210 acres of the former Schramm's Turkey Farm on Mountain Road in Pasadena.

The turkey farm site is already drawing opposition from the owners of the property, who are passing petitions in the area protesting the county's interest, said Del. W. Ray Huff, a Pasadena Democrat. He believes the county has never seriously considered the Pasadena site.

"They put that site up for consideration as a smoke screen to get us fighting each other so they would end up with the Ordnance Road property."

Delegate Huff said the committee was stacked in Mr. Neall's favor for the Ordnance Road site when it was formed.

"But when they saw the evidence against the site, that all changed," he said.

Adding his voice to other critics of the proposed jail, he questioned the need for it at all.

"They could add 300 or 400 beds more to the [existing] jail [on Jennifer Road in Annapolis] easily," he said. "This is supposed to be a holding place until inmates get to the state prison system."

The task force is exploring alternatives that would reduce the detention center population. Seven task force members visited the Montgomery County Pre-Release Center last week and came back excited about the concept.

The pre-release center, built with state money and operated with a per-diem from the state for each inmate, admits prisoners before the end of their sentences and works to re-integrate them into the community.

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