Glen Burnie jail proposal stirs ire

January 26, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- Residents of northern Anne Arundel County joined area lawmakers yesterday in denouncing a County Council proposal to build a jail in Glen Burnie.

And it appears they have cause for worry.

The resolution for a second county jail -- introduced by council members Maureen Lamb, David G. Boschert and Virginia P. Clagett -- appears to have picked up the fourth vote that would assure its passage.

But Councilwoman Diane Evans said her support is conditioned on her colleagues withstanding the withering pressure that will likely come from North County.

"If they are firm, they've got my vote," the Severna Park Republican said yesterday. "If they're not firm, they don't."

All three of the resolution's sponsors are lame ducks, prohibited from running again for their council seats by the term limitation measure adopted by county voters two years ago.

Ms. Evans also said she would propose amending the resolution to spell out renovations to the existing jail on Jennifer Road near Annapolis, including new laundry and kitchen facilities and additional administrative, medical and program space.

The resolution is a compromise between the three sponsors and Annapolis political and community leaders, who bitterly opposed the council's decision last November to double the size of the Jennifer Road jail in three phases.

As part of the compromise, the Jennifer Road jail will undergo extensive renovations, including improving its exterior appearance. The maximum-security cells will stay in Annapolis, but its capacity will not grow, Mr. Boschert said. A facility that would house and treat drunken drivers and drug offenders would be placed somewhere along Riva Road in Parole.

The proposed facility in Glen Burnie would be used for pre-release, an increasingly popular concept among corrections officials that prepares inmates to return to the community as they finish their sentences.

From all indications, opposition by North County residents will be just as intense as it was when County Executive Robert R. Neall proposed building a 650-bed jail there two years ago.

"People are upset. They're calling me, trying to get a better grasp on what to do," said Lola Hand, president of the Suburbia Civic Association and a member of a task force appointed last year to find a jail site. The County Council ultimately ignored the task force's recommendation of a site in Ms. Evans' district, next to police headquarters in Millersville, and voted in November to expand the jail on Jennifer Road.

"I think 99 percent of the people in this area are against this jail," said Richard K. Wengert Sr., president of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association. "We don't think it's proper. The people in North County always get the junk that's put up in this county."

The resolution will also be opposed by North County lawmakers, including the two councilmen representing the area, Democrats George Bachman of Linthicum and Edward Middlebrooks of Severn.

"It is a political expediency for them to come out with something like this," Mr. Bachman said. "We were opposed to it before and we will continue to oppose it as a detention center site. The people in this part of the county are not going to be letting up."

State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, who fought state funding for the jail on Ordnance Road during the 1992 legislative session, said he was ready for "a 10-round bout on the Ordnance Road Depot."

"This whole matter of the detention center has been mishandled from the beginning, and this is just another example," said Mr. Jimeno, a Democrat.

He and the rest of the District 31 delegation have written county officials, asking them to delay the cleanup of the Ordnance Road land until a public meeting with local residents can be held.

County officials said they are planning such a meeting for sometime in March.

Sen. Michael J. Wagner, a District 32 Democrat, said that if the county passes the resolution and selects the Ordnance Road site, "I'll try and get the state funding. I think that probably out of all the sites that have been suggested, it's the most acceptable."

Although he had pretty much given up hope on ever seeing a jail built on Ordnance Road, Mr. Neall said that if the council passes the resolution, he will approach the county's General Assembly delegation about acquiring state funding during the current legislative session.

"He isn't sure it's possible" because time is running short, said Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman for Mr. Neall. "But he's willing to try."

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