A proposed 650-bed county jail almost found a home in Annapolis Junction and Pasadena before County Executive Robert R. Neall decided to build it in Glen Burnie.
Yesterday, North County political leadersquestioned Neall's decision to locate the $80 million, maximum-security detention center at the old Army Depot on New Ordnance Road.
At a morning briefing with Neall's aides, state lawmakers expressed concerns about environmental hazards, the wisdom of transporting inmates 40 miles back and forth between the 84-acre site and Circuit Court in Annapolis and the potential for cost overruns. They also chided Neall for not making his plans known sooner.
Neall aide Walter Chitwood said the Glen Burnie site is the best available. And last night, Neall asked the County Council to support the project.
A public hearing before the council has been set for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.
A development consultant had recommended last fall that Neall also consider a 335-acre site across the Baltimore-Washington Parkway from the National Security Administration and a 213-acre former turkey farm near Mountain Road and Catherine Avenue.
Chitwood said the Annapolis Junction site is farther from Annapolis and contains steep slopes that would have made constructionmore expensive.
The Pasadena site would have affected too many residents, he said. About 1,450 homes lie within a half mile of the farm, compared with 35 homes around the depot.
The county also would have had to purchase the other sites. It bought the depot property in1981, hoping to attract new industry.
Although the turkey farm isfor sale, part-owner Emma Schramm said she would not want to sell tothe county. "A jail, no way!" Schramm said. "I wouldn't wish that onany of my neighbors."
Richard Baker, superintendent of the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, said the jail houses about 150 convicts, none serving sentences of more than 18 months. But the majority of the jail's nearly 560 prisoners are awaiting trial, often shuttlingfour or more times between the detention center and the court.
The facility is designed to hold a maximum of 528.
By expediting trials, plus using a house-arrest program and community-service sentences, the county has kept more than 1,400 potential prisoners out of thedetention center, Baker said. Still, an increase in thefts, burglaries and violent crimes is placing growing pressure on the jail, he said.
That trend, coupled with the county's growth, suggests the county's jail population will more than double during the next 20 years, Chitwood said. To accommodate the new prisoners, Neall has proposed spending $115 million over the next six years on the new jail.
After the proposed new jail's opening, the county plans to renovate the 25-year-old jail to house minimum-security and work-release prisoners.The county should complete a $3.2 million, 198-bed expansion at the Jennifer Road facility in May.
State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, said he's concerned the administration has not considered the cost of transporting prisoners once the new prison is built or the cost of cleaning up contaminated soils and the Army's abandoned storage bunkers.
David W. Blaha, the county's development consultant,said the ground is "slightly" contaminated, but not considered hazardous. And Chitwood said removal of the storage bunkers will not significantly affect the cost.
Jimeno and other county political leaders also were angry over not being informed sooner about the new jail and the sites being considered.
"These kinds of surprises will haveto stop or they won't get through the budget," complained County Council Chairman David Boschert, D-Crownsville. "I can get the votes to guarantee that."
Although Delegate W. Ray Huff, D-Pasadena, opposes the new jail, he may have found the silver lining. "At least there aren't any smokestacks," he said.