Opposition to jail plan builds before hearing

April 27, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Civic opposition to an expanded Anne Arundel County Detention Center on Jennifer Road is growing, and could explode at a County Council hearing scheduled for May 4.

A new coalition, Civic Associations of Annapolis, will have its second meeting tonight, focusing mostly on opposition to enlarging the Jennifer Road jail.

"There is a very rapidly growing consensus of opposition to this Jennifer Road jail site," said Dan Masterson, a board member of the Admiral Heights Improvement Association. "I would fully expect that there would be a significant turnout."

Petition drives against jail expansion are in the works. So far, only about four civic groups are part of the new umbrella organization, but others are considering it, Mr. Masterson said.

The coalition will meet at 7:30 p.m. in the Severn Room of the Anne Arundel Medical Center.

The County Council has scheduled the May 4 public hearing on the latest county consultant's report on enlarging the Detention Center. Plans call for expanding the detention center to hold up to about 1,450 inmates -- more than twice the approximately 630 there now.

Council Chairman David G. Boschert said the hearing was scheduled at the request of Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, an Annapolis Democrat, whose district includes the crowded county jail.

He said the council expects to have Annapolis-area residents air their views on the prospect of having the jail, located near Annapolis Mall, expand to consume most of the 19 acres the county has there, which would mean relocating a fire station.

The hearing is set for 7 p.m. in the hearing room of the Arundel Center.

At previous hearings, people from throughout the county have opposed having a large jail built in their neighborhood.

A county task force in October had four potential jail sites in mind: Millersville, Pasadena, Davidsonville and Crownsville. County Executive Robert R. Neall wanted a new jail on an 85-acre site on New Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie, but the former military depot turned out to be contaminated by radioactive materials. The County Council directed Mr. Neall to find out how many inmates could be housed at an expanded Jennifer Road site.

The County Council's choice, near Annapolis Mall, is the one under discussion now. A Harrisburg, Pa.-based consultant has indicated the county could build a two-story jail there for about $60 million; a Columbia, S.C.-based consultant said a seven-story jail could go there, at about twice the price.

Ms. Lamb, who opposes expanding the jail, said she hoped the area's diverse communities would attend the council hearing. Typically, the Annapolis area has not been as vociferous as others when it comes to county government.

"It's hard to get people in Annapolis to a hearing in the county," Ms. Lamb said. "They look to the city. They come to the City Council chambers a lot."

The community opposes jail expansion for several reasons. Traffic is a big consideration, Mr. Masterson said, noting Jennifer Road is a major thoroughfare.

Also, the county would face the same situation again in a decade. If projections are correct, the jail population will surpass 1,450 by about 2010. The county would have no more expansion room at Jennifer Road.

The other sites that had been considered have more acreage, and could hold an even bigger jail. But many people lack faith in the projections, and the county may not need such a big jail.

Plus, Mr. Masterson said, the current jail, near the Route 50 gateway to the city, "is an aesthetic monstrosity."

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