Debate over site for new jail sets off fireworks as council holds hearing

March 15, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The crowd of 200 people scattered throughout the Glen Burnie High School auditorium last night may have seemed small compared with those of more than 1,000 that packed previous hearings on the controversial search for site for an additional county jail facility.

But the crowd was no less passionate than the others.

The residents of Annapolis, North County and Crownsville applauded their supporters and hooted opponents during a County Council hearing last night on two competing jail-site resolutions.

One resolution, backed mainly by residents of Annapolis, site of the present detention center, would put the jail on county-owned property in Glen Burnie that is awaiting removal of radioactive soil contaminated by thorium nitrate when the site was a weapons depot.

The other resolution would put a jail facility in Crownsville.

Dan Masterson, representing the Civic Associations of Annapolis, argued that building a minimum-security jail on the 85-acre property in Glen Burnie, while keeping maximum-security prisoners at a renovated Annapolis detention center, made the most sense.

"It's got access to roads. It's got access to sewers. The county owns it," Mr. Masterson said of the Glen Burnie site. "You can build a facility in the center of this site and isolate the community from it. You can't isolate the facility at Jennifer Road."

Lola Hand, representing the North County community associations, said she did not fault the people of Annapolis for suggesting the Glen Burnie site. "But how can they be expected to understand the problems we face and continue to face in northern Anne Arundel County?" she asked.

Ms. Hand noted that the issue of fairness has been raised many times during the debate on the jail site. "But if you're insisting on talking about fairness, maybe you would like to share some of the 26,000 tons of thorium nitrate" that is still stored in the Curtis Bay Depot, she said.

The citizens had barely taken their seats when fireworks began among council members.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I want to apologize to you because this should not happen to you; this should not happen to the people of Anne Arundel County," said George Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat, in a barrage aimed at his colleagues from points south of Glen Burnie. "This council took it upon themselves to use you as a tool for their own political . . . benefit."

"I've known Mr. Bachman for almost 20 years," Maureen Lamb, an Annapolis Democrat and a moving force behind the Glen Burnie resolution, shot back. "This is the first time in all those 20 years that I can truthfully say that he is speaking without regard to the real needs of this county.

"There is no way that the people on this council that are pushing for a resolution tonight would do it for political reasons," she said. "We are trying very, very hard to answer a need that has been here in this county for the last 12 years."

Concerning the Glen Burnie site, U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, a 1st District Republican, urged North County residents to do nothing to delay cleanup of the radioactive contamination there.

"This cleanup, this first step, should be completed and not slowed down," Mr. Gilchrest said.

He promised that any further contamination -- both on the county-owned property and at the still-active Curtis Bay Depot next door -- will be identified and cleaned up.

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