A group of law enforcement and judicial officials will be joining Carroll County administrators in deciding whether the county needs a new jail.
The county commissioners agreed yesterday to add to a committee that will work with consultants to help plan a new facility.
Estimating that the county's share to build a jail could be as much as $25 million, Ted Zaleski, the county's director of management and budget, said the facility "has the potential to be the largest capital project the county has ever taken on."
He said the jail would be on the same scale as the county's newest two high schools, Winters Mill and Century. The cost to build each school was about $35 million. Although the county was reimbursed by the state for about half of Century's cost, the county paid about $25 million for Winters Mill.
Officials believe that the current jail will become obsolete in less than two years. The county has expanded the facility three times since it was built in 1971, with the most recent addition completed less than five years ago.
Zaleski has been meeting with county staff members and George R. Hardinger, warden of the Carroll County Detention Center, to explore the feasibility of a new jail. Thomas J. Rio, chief of the county Bureau of Building Construction, is the chairman of the committee.
Rio said law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders and judges need to be involved in designing a jail that will work with sentencing guidelines.
Ralph Green, director of the Department of General Services, said the committee wanted to include the two new Circuit Court judges who will replace retired Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. and Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr., who is expected to retire this summer.
"It's really important to the planning process that we bring the various players together," Zaleski said.
Rio told the county commissioners that the committee will recommend one consulting firm to help determine the size of a new jail, how many people would be needed to staff it and how much it would cost.
The consultants also will be responsible for projecting inmate population growth and sheriff's services, analyzing criminal justice practices and devising alternatives to incarceration.
Rio estimated that it could be a month before a firm starts the process, and up to four months before the consultants present their recommendations to the commissioners.
A year ago, Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning and Hardinger unveiled a proposal for a $100 million facility, which a contractor would build and the county would lease with an option to buy. At that time, they speculated that the cost could be offset if the jail housed federal and state inmates, who would provide a source of revenue to help make it self-sufficient.
To supplement the Sheriff's Department budget, the county houses immigration prisoners in its detention center and receives $64 a day for each. Tregoning said that extra revenue allowed him to hire 11 additional deputies.
But Hardinger said yesterday that federal Immigration and Naturalization Service money was not going to be considered a factor in the initial plans for the new jail. He said housing the local population is the priority.
That is because Hardinger believes that the detention center in Westminster could surpass its 287-bed capacity by 2006. Both Hardinger and Tregoning said expansion is no longer an option.
Were it not for the conversion of a recreational area to another sleeping section, Hardinger said, he would not have any more room for the local population.
This month, Carroll's all-Republican delegation submitted a $19 million bond authorization request to the General Assembly that includes $4.2 million to relocate some of the sheriff's services from the detention center to the former New Windsor Middle School.
The relocation of the sheriff's administrative and patrol functions to the school could mean that the vacant area at the detention center could be used as a low-security area and for the work-release program.