Senators on spot in jail debate Delegation urged to stop expansion

October 15, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad may have at least one ally his attempt to block state funds to expand the Anne Arundel County detention center near Annapolis -- Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, who is grateful for Mr. Winegrad's support in keeping a new jail out of his North County district.

And he can count on at least one opponent -- Sen. Michael J. Wagner, who said yesterday he would not vote to deny state money for the project.

"No, hell, no, I wouldn't do that," Mr. Wagner said. "Any money that's available, I'm going to vote to get it."

Mr. Wagner said he was less than happy with Mr. Winegrad's suggestion to a group of Annapolis residents Tuesday night that they lobby the other four senators in the county delegation to block state money for the $71 million expansion of the jail on Jennifer Road.

Mr. Winegrad said that if he can get two senators to vote with BTC him, it effectively will kill the project for at least one year. Senatorial courtesy dictates that the full body accede to the vote of a county's delegation.

The county is requesting $10.9 million in state funds in next spring's General Assembly session for the first phase of the expansion, expected to cost $24 million.

"Gerald's trying to put the responsibility on the senators," Mr. Wagner complained, arguing that residents opposed to the expansion should be focusing on the County Council instead of state legislators.

"They're the people that right now have the issue in front of them," Mr. Wagner said.

The Ferndale Democrat said the proper response to the problem of an overcrowded detention center is to approve money for the project and let the county council that is to be elected in 1994 decide where it should go.

Mr. Winegrad insisted he is not trying to put anyone on the spot. "I'm not singling out the other four senators," Mr. Winegrad said. "I just need their help collectively in making a very tough vote."

Mr. Jimeno said he is grateful for Mr. Winegrad's support in opposing a site off Ordnance Road for a new detention center, but that he has not made up his mind on how he will vote on the county's funding request.

"I was where Senator Winegrad stands two years ago and he was very helpful," Mr. Jimeno said. "Quite frankly, the input from Senator Winegrad will weigh heavily on my decision on whether to support it or not."

Sen. Bernard Fowler, who represents southern Anne Arundel county and Calvert County, was non-committal. But he said that the community opposition that led him to vote against locating the jail in Glen Burnie will not necessarily sway him in this case.

"I'm not prepared to say I would take the same position as I did on a prison in North County," he said, noting that a jail already is on the Jennifer Road site. "I would have to hear the proposal and hear all the pros and cons before I take a position on it."

He said he knows "nobody wants a prison, but at the same time the county is going to need adequate space."

But Mr. Winegrad was hopeful he could enlist Mr. Fowler's support. "Bernie Fowler's a good friend of mine," he said.

Sen. John A. Cade could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, two County Council members said yesterday they don't think too highly of Del. Michael E. Busch's suggestion at the same meeting Tuesday night that they lobby the council to reconsider its vote to expand the jail on Jennifer Road.

"The County Council has voted and I believe a decision now rests with the [General Assembly] delegation," said Diane Evans, an Arnold Republican. "With the recent increase of violent crime, those who oppose the expansion and refuse to bring closure to this issue further jeopardize the safety of county residents."

Mr. Busch had suggested that with a little work the residents might be able to form a coalition of Ms. Evans, Maureen Lamb, Virginia Clagett and David G. Boschert to rescind the council's vote last November. Of those four, only Mr. Boschert and Ms. Evans voted to expand the facility.

But Mr. Boschert, who was precluded from running for the council again when voters approved term limits last November, said yesterday the next council should make the decision.

"The next county council and the county executive will be the ones to deal with this issue," he said. "I think that it may be in the best interests of everyone to wait until the new county council comes on line in 1994."

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