Anne Arundel County cleared a major obstacle yesterday to obtaining $1.2 million in state funding to plan a jail annex in Glen Burnie when the Senate delegation narrowly approved the request.
The senators voted 3-2 to transfer money left over from an expansion of the Jennifer Road jail near Annapolis to the Glen Burnie project. As with the House delegation vote a day earlier, senators split along South County-North County lines. The state money must be matched by county funds.
Voting in favor were Sens. John A. Cade, R-Severna Park; C. Bernard Fowler, D-Prince Frederick; and Gerald W. Winegrad, D-Annapolis. Sens. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park; and Michael J. Wagner, D-Ferndale, opposed the measure.
The money will pay for a consultant's study and preliminary plan for the jail on an 85-acre tract the county owns on Ordnance Road, as well as the renovation of the Jennifer Road jail.
But Mr. Jimeno managed to add an amendment, adopted unanimously by his colleagues, that would prohibit the approval of any money for jail construction until the Ordnance Road property receives a clean bill of health from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
There are patches of soil contaminated with radioactive thorium, which leaked from warehouses when the site was part of a U.S. Army Depot. Opponents argued that nothing should be done with the land until the radiation is removed, which federal officials plan to do this fall.
An amendment offered by Mr. Wagner to confine the use of the Ordnance Road property to a prerelease or work-release program was defeated.
"This is a short-term setback for us," Mr. Jimeno said. "The real battle will come with the next county executive, the next legislature, for the [construction] funding."
But Mr. Winegrad said the next class of elected officials may want to consider the issue resolved.
"They may be able to avoid this politically difficult issue and just move forward with it," Mr. Winegrad said.
It had not been clear up until the vote whether Mr. Wagner would oppose the funding. He maintained that, after the council's 4-3 vote approving the Ordnance Road site two weeks ago, it was his responsibility as a senator representing the whole county to consider the funding request.
In the end, he voted to join his North County House and Senate colleagues.
"I voted against it so the delegates and senators in Districts 31 and 32 were united," Mr. Wagner said. "We have some legitimate concerns. We plan on putting language in the budget next year addressing those concerns."
They include a guarantee that the Glen Burnie jail annex will only be used for minimum security inmates, which County Executive Robert R. Neall has said is his intention.
"We'd prefer a building with no fence around it, no barbed wire," Mr. Wagner said.
Mr. Wagner said he would also want assurances that no other county, state or federal penal institutions be located on the property, and he wants the county to spell out what it plans to do with the remainder of the land.
The request must still be approved by the respective fiscal committees in the House and the Senate, but with the approval of the county's delegations, passage is almost assured.
Because the Senate version was amended, the differences will have to be worked out in a conference committee.