Jail site panel member resigns Task force 'playing games,' Neall says

October 15, 1992|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

County Councilwoman Diane R. Evans resigned yesterday from the citizen task force that will select a site for the new detention center, calling the group's decision-making process "flawed."

At the same time, County Executive Robert R. Neall accused the task force of "playing games" after it eliminated the Ordnance Road site he favored and added other sites for consideration that he said clearly do not meet the county's criteria.

Ms. Evans, a Republican from Arnold, said she was resigning because she feels the Detention Center Siting and Alternative Sentences Task Force has strayed from its original mission, which was to find a location for the new jail.

"I think more time has been spent on alternatives to incarceration than on developing a set of criteria and applying the criteria against a list of possible sites for a new facility," Ms. Evans said. "I have a real problem with the focus being on alternatives to incarceration when the real need is hard beds."

She said the task force has been unable to agree on the criteria it will use to determine the site. An important factor for some members is the distance of the jail from the families of the inmates, a factor she considers less important than the project cost, environmental concerns and the uses of adjacent properties.

"I think the process has been flawed," she said.

Robert Moore, vice-chairman of the task force and president of the Brooklyn Park Association of Councils, said he was surprised by Ms. Evans' resignation.

"I'm disappointed she's resigning. There are still a lot of issues that have to be cleared up," he said.

Ms. Evans said she did not intend to participate in the task force's final vote, anyway, so this seemed like an appropriate time to step down. She will ultimately cast a vote as a member of the County Council, which has the final say on the project.

Ms. Evans was one of three council members originally appointed to the committee in July after the council refused to approve the 85-acre site on Ordnance Road last spring because of community opposition.

Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, a Democrat from Severn, resigned from the task force after the first meeting, saying that he would rather have a constituent represent his district. Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, remains on the task force.

Seven of the 11 members represent each council district. Four others were appointed by Mr. Neall.

Last week, the task force rejected the Ordnance Road site, leaving four sites remaining for consideration: a 132-acre site in Pumphrey; a site in Davidsonville on Patuxent River Road; the Fisher property, 159 acres on Route 97 near Crownsville State Hospital Center; and 210 acres of the former Schramm's Turkey Farm on Mountain Road in Pasadena.

Mr. Neall expressed his irritation yesterday morning as he spoke to the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County about some of the task force's recent decisions, including the elimination of the Ordnance Road site and the inclusion of sites that are clearly unacceptable because they lack utilities, are too small or present sewage problems.

He singled out the Davidsonville site, which he said the county considered earlier but ruled out because it is located in wetlands and the nearby Patuxent River is under a sewer moratorium.

"We appointed this group of citizens and they're starting to play games," Mr. Neall said.

He said the need for the new jail is critical due to overcrowding in the present facility, and he fretted that "a federal judge is going to wake up one morning and issue an order."

Mr. Neall said he would carefully consider whatever plan the task force comes up with. "If it doesn't meet the criteria, they really haven't done their assignment," he said.

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