Schaefer rejects request for jail expansion funds Annapolis officials opposed plan

October 24, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

Gov. William Donald Schaefer has squelched a $71 million expansion of Anne Arundel County's overcrowded jail, citing intense opposition from the public and elected leaders in Annapolis.

The governor denied a request by County Executive Robert R. Neall for $11 million in state money to finance the expansion's first phase, aimed at alleviating overcrowding at the 27-year-old Jennifer Road jail.

Additional phases would have doubled the detention center's capacity.

The jail was designed to hold 600 prisoners. On most weekends, however, the number of prisoners detained swells to 650 or more.

Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins announced the governor's decision Friday.

"The practical effect of today's announcement is jail expansion at Jennifer Road has been stopped," Mr. Hopkins said, reading from a prepared statement.

Paul E. Schurick, executive director of administration for the governor, said Mr. Schaefer made the decision after being lobbied by Mr. Hopkins, state Sen. Gerald Winegrad and Del. Michael Busch -- all Annapolis Democrats -- as well as numerous residents.

"The governor has been following the politics of this from a distance, primarily because of the incredible opposition of the residents in the area and some criticisms of the process used in selecting" the site, Mr. Schurick said. "The governor can't very well ignore that."

Traditionally, once a county executive and council have agreed on a site, the state will finance a portion of a new jail's construction without questioning its location.

Mr. Schurick said that the decision was made last week because the governor's staff is preparing its budget proposal for the 1994 General Assembly session. That it comes only a week before the city's mayoral election is a coincidence, he said.

Mr. Neall was unaware of the decision until yesterday morning, said his spokeswoman, Louise Hayman. Mr. Neall had left for the day when the announcement was made and was unavailable for comment.

Ms. Hayman said that county officials were not certain that the decision would stop the first phase of the work, primarily renovation that does not increase the jail's capacity.

"You are never going to see Jennifer Road disappear," Ms. Hayman said. "It will always be some kind of jail facility there."

Ms. Hayman also noted that the Jennifer Road site was not Mr. Neall's choice.

He proposed building a new jail on Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie two years ago to house the county's growing number of prisoners awaiting trial and serving short sentences. But his plan was blocked by lawmakers from northern Anne Arundel County.

The County Council finally targeted Jennifer Road for expansion after neighborhoods throughout the county rallied against sites proposed in their communities.

If the council can come up with a new jail site by January, Mr. Busch said, the state money could be restored and the jail's overcrowding relieved.

But state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Brooklyn Park Democrat who opposed the Glen Burnie site, said lawmakers should not rush into a decision. He said that the decision should be left until after next year's county executive and County Council elections.

"That way everyone can pin down the candidates about exactly where it should go," Mr. Jimeno said.

Mr. Neall has announced that he will not seek re-election.

Dan Masterson, a U.S. Naval Academy professor who led an ad hoc coalition of residents opposed to the Jennifer Road expansion, said that the council must develop a long-term plan in addition to selecting a new site.

"This controversy will keep coming up every five years or so as long as they keep coming up with short-term solutions," Mr. Masterson said.

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