Council members tour prefab detention units

Four County Council members went to Montgomery County yesterday to see how an addition to the detention center there was built with prefabricated concrete modules.

They came away impressed.


Montgomery County officials showed off the 330-bed addition to their detention center, which consists of six buildings with 30 cells each, connected by a central corridor. The project was built in nine months for $6.2 million.

Anne Arundel County's plans call for a 650-bed detention center at a cost of $80 million.


Modular construction is cheaper because the Fibrebond Corp., which built the Montgomery County addition, uses its own architects and builds the modules in Louisiana where labor is cheaper. Also, construction time is half to one-third that of conventional methods, and site preparation costs are lower.

"They've addressed all the issues with these modules," said Council Chairman David G. Boschert, who was accompanied by council members George Bachman, Diane Evans and Carl Holland. "You can build a quality detention center for much less money than we've been told and still have the possibility for expansion on much less acreage."

Councilman Carl Holland referred to the construction concept when he introduced the resolution recommending that the new detention center be built at the site of the present jail on Jennifer Road in Annapolis.

Consultants have told county officials that a 30-acre site is needed for the detention center and program space. The Jennifer Road site, which has only about 10 available acres and would mean building a more-expensive, high-rise facility, was ruled out from the beginning.

The six-building addition in Montgomery County was built on 2 1/4 acres. But the modules are only for cells. Offices, programs, kitchens, gymnasiums and those types of functions are better built using traditional construction techniques, said G.F. Maxwell of the Fibrebond Corp.

Anne Arundel Detention Center Superintendent Richard Baker has argued he needs more space than is available at Jennifer Road precisely for those kinds of facilities.

The modules come in two-cell units stacked like building blocks. A module is made of four slabs of 6-inch-thick concrete with two interlocked grids of steel reinforcement inside. The four slabs are bolted together to form the walls.

Security has not been a problem, said George R. Hardinger, director of capital improvement projects for the Montgomery County corrections department. The building has two tiers of cells with a dayroom in the middle, making it easy to patrol. There have been no escapes since it has been built.


"Personally, I consider this as secure as any other part of the jail," Mr. Hardinger said.