Council continues jail debate

March 14, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The duel moves north tonight.

In what some have only half-jokingly called the second "battle between the north and the south," the County Council will hold a second public hearing on two resolutions: one would put a new jail in Glen Burnie; the other would put it in Crownsville.

The resolution is important because a site must be agreed upon before the General Assembly will provide the customary 50 percent funding for jail projects. With the state legislative session more than half over, time is running out if funding is to be granted this year.

The council is evenly split between the resolutions. The three North County councilmen -- C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Democrat; Carl G. Holland, a Pasadena Republican; and George F. Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat -- prefer putting the jail in Crownsville.

Council members Maureen Lamb, an Annapolis Democrat; Virginia Clagett, a West River Democrat; and David G. Boschert, a Crownsville Democrat, favor the Glen Burnie site.

Diane R. Evans, an Arnold Republican, has the deciding vote. She initially favored the Glen Burnie site, but vowed to keep an open mind until the vote, which could come tonight.

A majority of the council indicated last week that they wanted to resolve the question at tonight's hearing. But last week, members of the District 31 delegation -- Sen. Philip C. Jimeno and Dels. Joan Cadden, W. Ray Huff and Charles Kolodziejski -- wrote to Mr. Middlebrooks to ask him to postpone the vote until March 21 because they will be in session tonight.

Mr. Middlebrooks promised a spirited defense in favor of Crownsville and against Glen Burnie, despite dimming prospects of victory.

"It's clearly just some people trying to save their political lives," he said of the Glen Burnie resolution. "I think their intention is to appease some Annapolis citizens."

The jail expansion was planned for the present site on Jennifer Road near Annapolis until Gov. William Donald Schaefer withdrew state funding in October, saying a new jail should not be built in the Annapolis area.

Mr. Middlebrooks said environmental considerations rule out the property on Ordnance Road, once part of an Army munitions depot. It remains contaminated with radioactive thorium nitrate that was stored there, he said. Putting a jail there would further harm Marley Creek.

Ms. Lamb said her north county colleague's scheme of using empty space at Crownsville State Hospital for a jail work-release program or prerelease center just won't work. She said she investigated the idea last year and found it was not feasible.

Looking for empty building space "does not solve the problem. They need a spot. They need a designated spot" for jail construction to receive state funding, she said.

"There's just no way," she said.

Mr. Middlebrooks thinks just as highly of the Glen Burnie plan.

"Do you see any plans or figures or numbers on what they're trying to accomplish?" he said.

"It's the most poorly presented resolution that has been put before the council," he added.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Glen Burnie Senior High School, 7550 B & A Blvd., S.E., in Glen Burnie.

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