3 delegates target funds for jail annex

April 06, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

Three North County delegates think they may be able to keep the county from collecting $1.2 million in planning money for a Glen Burnie jail annex until it can prove it needs the facility.

The county is trying to get the state to shift the money, originally earmarked for planning an expansion at the county Detention Center on Jennifer Road near Annapolis, to the Ordnance Road project. That transfer has already received Senate approval.

However, District 31 Democrats -- Joan Cadden, W. Ray Huff and Charles W. "Stokes" Kolodziejski -- have successfully lobbied the chairman of the Appropriations Committee's capital budget subcommittee to amend the legislation and make it more difficult for the county to get the money.

The amendment by Del. Timothy F. Maloney would prevent the state Board of Public Works from releasing the $1.2 million until the county conducts a study that quantifies the county's jail capacity requirements, and that specifies the type and size of a new facility.

In addition, the Prince George's Democrat agreed to changes that would:

* Delete the specific reference to the Ordnance Road site, meaning the funds can be used to plan a detention center anywhere in the county.

* Prohibit the approval of any construction money 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.

* Block construction approval until questions about land use are resolved.

Opponents point to a clause in the property deed that states that the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development lent the county $818,500 toward the $1.15 million purchase price on condition that the it "be used primarily for industrial and commercial purposes."

Mr. Maloney said his committee could vote on the amendments as early as today.

The legislation, which is an amendment to the 1994 capital bond bill, then goes to the House floor. A conference committee would iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions.

The delegates said they requested the changes because there are still too many unanswered questions about the Ordnance Road site and about the county's corrections needs.

"We're not sure they need a jail," Mr. Huff said.

He said that many of the county's inmates are awaiting trial and pass to the state system after sentencing. When the new county courthouse is built, and if another Circuit Court judge is approved next year as expected, inmates will move through the system and out of the county Detention Center more quickly.

Jail opponents have been critical of a consultant's projections in 1990 of inmate population that showed Anne Arundel would need space for 779 prisoners by 1993, 1,170 prisoners by 2000 and 1,728 inmates in 2010.

Programs that have hastened trials and kept child support delinquents out of jail have reduced the Detention Center population an average of 74 inmates the past six months of 1993 compared to the last six months of 1992.

However, Detention Center officials say that the population is beginning to rise again.

Yesterday there were 570 inmates, but there were 597 last weekend and 613 two weekends ago, officials said.

Mr. Huff said he expects that conducting the study will delay jail annex planning until after the November election, when there will be a new county executive and County Council.

"Next year, it'll be a whole new ballgame and we'll go at this again," he said.

Administration officials expressed surprise that the state would break with past practice and permit a jail project to be funded without a specific site.

The County Council's inability to settle on a site had always been considered a stumbling block to obtaining state matching funds for the jail.

"We would hope that Anne Arundel County is treated fairly by the state government, insofar as other counties have had to specify a site before receiving state funding for local detention centers," said Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman for County Executive Robert R. Neall.

But Mr. Maloney made it clear that choosing a jail location is a local issue and that he has no problem granting planning money for an undetermined jail location.

"The site selection is not the responsibility of the General Assembly, but is the responsibility of the local governing body, the county council and the county executive," he said. "It's not something we want to get involved in."

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