Lawmakers vow to fight jail site in Glen Burnie

March 16, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The three North County councilmen have all but conceded they have lost the battle: a resolution to place a new jail in Glen Burnie has enough votes to pass tonight.

But the war "will continue into the next administration," insisted Carl G. Holland, a Pasadena Republican.

Traditionally, counties ask the state for financial help to build a jail, but chances of getting any more money with only a month left in this General Assembly session are slim. In addition, North County legislators would fight such an appropriation.

"We intend to fight it and see it is not funded and see it is dealt with by the next administration," said State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, who represents Brooklyn Park.

A new county executive and County Council will take office in December, one month before the next General Assembly session starts. And the three council members from Central and South County who sponsored the resolution to put the jail on Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie are being forced out of office at the end of this year by a term-limit law.

"All of this is going for zero," said George Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat. "Next year, when this comes around, three of the four aren't going to be there."

Diane Evans, an Arnold Republican and the swing vote, has not said how she will vote. Yesterday, she said she wanted to give her North County colleagues one more opportunity to sell their competing resolution to place the detention center in Crownsville. But she says she has seen little concrete information so far.

North County council members, however, say they can guess which way Ms. Evans is leaning.

"She's voted with the bloc of three on every procedural issue," said Council Chairman C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Democrat. "I don't need to be a clairvoyant to see what's going to happen."

Tonight's hearing was scheduled to discuss the county's 10-year solid waste plan, which should generate a controversy of its own because it includes consideration of an incinerator. The jail issue was added to the agenda after a hearing at Glen Burnie High School Monday night.

The council members favoring the site on Ordnance Road tried to force a vote, but couldn't, so they settled for a vote tonight. Mr. Middlebrooks said he will schedule it as the first agenda item.

Even though there will be no public testimony, the council members from North County say the measure will not pass without a few parting shots, particularly the environmental dangers posed by contamination from radioactive thorium once stored on the 85-acre property. A cleanup is to start in October.

"I think they're being very irresponsible in siting a jail until there's a cleanup and an assessment after the cleanup shows the site is fit for human habitation," Mr. Holland said.

Although the North County members say they want to drag the fight into next year, County Executive Robert R. Neall says he wants to resolve the issue quickly.

If the council approves the Glen Burnie resolution tonight, Mr. Neall said he will ask Gov. William Donald Schaefer's budget office for approval of planning money "because that's where this thing jumped off the track."

After the council approved a plan last year to expand the detention center on Jennifer Road near Annapolis, Governor Schaefer denied the county's request for state money at the behest of Annapolis' elected officials.

If Mr. Neall secures approval for the Glen Burnie site from Mr. Schaefer, he said he will meet with state legislators in an attempt to arrange funding for a study to determine what renovations are feasible at Jennifer Road, what would be built at Ordnance Road and the timing of construction. Construction funding would come the next year.

"Whether that happens in the legislative session, right after the legislative session or in the course of planning for the '95 legislative session, I'm not in a position of knowing yet," Mr. Neall said.

The council meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

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