Gary says consultants will study jail bids He acts after panel reports privatization would not save much

November 16, 1995|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,SUN STAFF

Stung by an internal report critical of efforts to privatize the county's new jail, County Executive John G. Gary is looking outside his administration for support.

The executive said yesterday that he has retained two consultants to review the bids of two national companies competing to operate a 400-bed detention center Anne Arundel plans to open in Glen Burnie by September 1997.

The consultants -- one of whom is former County Executive Robert R. Neall -- also will analyze jail Superintendent Richard Baker's estimates of the cost of operating the jail with public employees. Mr. Neall's administration drafted plans for the jail on Ordnance Road.

The other consultant is John E. Harms Jr. & Associates, a Pasadena engineering firm that Mr. Gary said was assembling a panel of experts from across the country to review the bids.

The executive said he turned to outside consultants after a LTC procurement panel he appointed reported last week that the county would save little, if any, money by privatizing the jail.

Mr. Gary has been an advocate of jail privatization as a cost-saving measure since he was elected last November. In July, he and two County Council members toured several privately operated prisons in Texas.

"It seems almost impossible to me that all over the country [privately run jails] are saving taxpayers money, but in our county the savings are minimal," Mr. Gary said yesterday.

The executive said he thinks that the cost of operating the jail with public employees might have been underestimated.

He said he also thinks that information about the new jail's design and capacity may have been withheld from U.S. Correctional Corp. of Louisville, Ky., and Correctional Partners Inc. of Kansas City, Mo., the competitors for the project.

Mr. Gary said he expects the consultants to report back to him by mid-December.

"I'm in no hurry," Mr. Gary said. "We can start building without having this decided. And, if I still feel uncertain about this, I may put it out to bid again."

Mr. Gary would not release any specific numbers on the bids for operating the jail.

Construction of the jail will cost $21 million and should begin in March, Mr. Baker told County Council members during a briefing yesterday. He said the new jail should open by Sept. 1, 1997.

It would house prisoners sentenced to 18 months or less, most of whom are on work-release, Mr. Baker said.

Prisoners awaiting trial, along with those needing medical attention for serious conditions or considered escape risks or dangerous would be held at the county's 28-year-old Detention Center in Annapolis.

The county is building the new jail to alleviate crowding at the Detention Center on Jennifer Road, which is designed for fewer than 600 prisoners but houses 750 men and women, Mr. Baker said.

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