House delegation OK's funds for jail annex plan

March 30, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County's House delegation narrowly voted yesterday to approve planning money for a jail annex in Glen Burnie.

The 7-6 vote was split along North County-South County lines. It was the first step in transferring to the Glen Burnie jail project the $1.2 million left over from a 1990 appropriation to expand the jail on Jennifer Road near Annapolis.

The county's Senate delegation is planning to vote on the issue sometime today. Then the matter would be referred to the fiscal committees of both houses and would become an amendment to the capital budget.

County Executive Robert R. Neall, who has been working to obtain state money for a Glen Burnie jail since the County Council approved the 85-acre site on Ordnance Road two weeks ago, was optimistic he'd get his planning money.

Mr. Neall is hoping to get money to design a "campus-like" complex on Ordnance Road for inmates serving sentences of 18 months or less, and to plan a renovation of the Jennifer Road jail, which would house medium and maximum security inmates.

"The bad news is we've got less than two weeks left" in the General Assembly session, Mr. Neall said. "The good news is it's [part of] the capital budget of Maryland, so if anything has a good chance of passing, this does."

The county's delegates debated the measure for about an hour yesterday before voting.

All six North County delegates -- District 31 Democrats Joan Cadden, W. Ray Huff and Charles W. Kolodziejski, and District 32 Democrats Mary Ann Love, Theodore J. Sophocleus and Victor A. Sulin -- opposed the funding transfer.

The six South County delegates -- John C. Astle, Phillip D. Bissett and Michael E. Busch of District 30, and John G. Gary, Marsha G. Perry and Elizabeth S. Smith-Anderson of District 33 -- voted in favor.

TTC The swing vote was George W. Owings III of District 29A, which includes a portion of South County, who voted in favor of the proposal.

North County delegates argued that money should not be appropriated for the jail in Glen Burnie until questions about the suitability of the site -- fiscal, environmental and zoning -- are answered.

At the very least, they said, planning should wait until after the removal of soil contaminated with radioactive thorium nitrate from when the property belonged to the U.S. Army. Federal officials say the cleanup should be completed by October.

Delegates also complained that they were being asked to approve a project with little information about the type and cost of the facility. "Is it going to be a prison with barbed wire or is it going to be a dormitory with a stream so people can go fishing?" asked Mr. Sophocleus.

Mr. Neall said the study will determine those things.

Mr. Sophocleus renewed his objection that the land had been designated an economic development zone in the county's comprehensive rezoning process about a decade ago and that putting a jail on Ordnance Road clearly does not meet the economic development criteria. "People have invested millions of dollars there and now we're changing the game plan," he said.

Those unanswered questions will continue to linger, even if planning money is approved this year, and give North County legislators an opening to block the project after Mr. Neall and members of the County Council are out of office.

"We're still opposed. We're going to remain opposed to it," Mr. Sophocleus said.

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