Commissioners OK modular addition to jail Brown critical

September 22, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Carroll's commissioners have decided to build a modular addition to the county's crowded jail.

Sheriff John H. Brown announced the decision last night, and criticized it.

"It's a Band-Aid. How long it will take care of the present need, I don't know," the sheriff told 20 people at a meeting of the Tri-District Republican Club at Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Finksburg.

"I guess they're short of money. I have to take the position now that something is better than nothing," Mr. Brown said.

The sheriff said he received a letter yesterday from Commissioner Donald I. Dell explaining the decision.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said last night that the board agreed unanimously to buy a modular unit, recognizing that it would be only a temporary solution to the county detention center's crowding problems.

"We bought ourselves a little time," Mr. Lippy said. "It doesn't preclude putting in more modulars. The idea was to put something in there now."

Modulars are prebuilt, portable buildings.

The modular addition will hold 24 prisoners, although the sheriff had asked for an 80-bed addition. The detention center at 100 N. Court St. now houses 120 prisoners, but up to 138 have been housed there at one time, he said.

Mr. Brown, who is running for a second term next year, said the modular addition won't be as secure as a brick-and-mortar addition.

"That's no longer a country jail with just the town drunk in there," he said. "I'm probably going to be very limited to what I can use this for."

He said he may use the addition to house work-release inmates.

The commissioners began considering modular cells this winter after bids for the 80-bed addition came in $1 million higher than expected. Bids for the addition ranged from $3 million to $3.5 million.

The commissioners met with representatives from several companies that make modular units and toured several jails that have installed them. They have since said they plan to seek new bids on the project.

Mr. Dell advocated building a new jail at the Northern Landfill, but Mr. Lippy and Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said an addition should be built because it is needed now.

The cost for modular cells is considerably less than for a permanent addition.

Queen Anne's County purchased and installed a modular cell to house 24 inmates for $350,000, the warden said in June when the commissioners toured the jail there.

The modular cells in Queen Anne's County have steel walls, concrete floors and rubber roofs. Warden LaMonte Cooke said he had not had any security problems.

In his letter to Sheriff Brown, Mr. Dell asked him to meet with county building and public works staff members to determine what kind of modular cells would be best.

Mr. Brown said he doesn't know how long it will take to put the addition in place. He said he would need to hire 10 more deputies to staff the 24-bed addition.

The commissioners gave him permission in July to hire nine.

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