Action set on drunken drivers' jail

May 09, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore County's on-again, off-again prison for drunken drivers is on again. Officials hope it will open by fall.

After several months of uncertainty over the partnership running Right Turn of Maryland Inc., which has a five-year contract to operate the Owings Mills center, Charles C. Powell has assumed full control of the private company.

Mr. Powell said he plans to start hiring employees this week. He said he wants to get into operation as quickly as possible and hopes to open by September. Right Turn was the only bidder to operate the facility.

The opening of the 100-bed prison has been delayed repeatedly in the past several years over problems with location, renovation costs and operation.

The latest delay occurred when Stephen K. Valle, Mr. Powell's partner, came under consideration for a high-ranking post in the Clinton administration, making his participation in the company doubtful.

Mr. Powell said Mr. Valle's future remains uncertain, but "he assigned his half-interest over to me, and he has an option to get back into it."

Michael Gimbel, director of the county Office of Substance Abuse, said the county changed two portions of the contract to ease Mr. Powell's financial burden.

First, the county, instead of Right Turn, will foot the $75,000 annual bill for a secretary and three counselors who will assess candidates for the program. Over the five-year contract, that will save Mr. Powell $375,000. It is expected to cost $1.5 million annually to operate the center. Start-up costs have been estimated at $600,000.

Second, Mr. Gimbel said, the county granted Mr. Powell an option for a second five-year contract, ensuring him more time to make a profit, assuming the center is operated properly.

"I'm really excited about getting this thing started now," Mr. Powell said Friday.

The inmates, who will be screened before they are accepted into the program, must pay to participate though the fee will be on a sliding scale based on income. Inmates sentenced to the center will continue to work outside the facility.

The center is supposed to provide a yearlong treatment program for convicted drunken drivers. Treatment begins with a 28-day stay at the renovated Richards building on the grounds of Rosewood Center, a state mental hospital.

Mr. Powell said he would like to begin making a small profit after two or three years of operation.

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