County Executive Robert R. Neall, rejecting the County Council's recommendation to build a new detention center in Annapolis, will propose a small addition to the present jail next year and will continue to look for a permanent site.
And although Mr. Neall has not settled on a site, he refused to rule out the New Ordnance Road location he has long favored, despite a report from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that confirmed suspicions that the site was contaminated with radioactive material.
"I wouldn't say [Ordnance Road] is ruled out, said Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman for Mr. Neall. "I think we want to first determine the degree of contamination, the time required to clean it up and who will have the financial responsibility."
The county received a long-delayed report this week that said the site, a former Army storage depot, contained thorium nitrate.
The possibility that Mr. Neall was even considering that site, which has been rejected both by the council and by a citizen task force, surprised some council members.
"What's he gonna do, let 'em glow in the dark?" stormed Council Chairman David G. Boschert.
"They just don't quit, do they?" fumed Councilman Edward Middlebrooks.
The County Council voted 4-3 Wednesday night to recommend that a new jail be located in Annapolis on the site of the current detention center.
The decision -- supported by council members George Bachman, Mr. Boschert, Diane R. Evans and Carl Holland -- angered Annapolis city officials, who said the council's decision last week to add the site on Jennifer Road overlooking U.S. 50 to the list caught them by surprise.
Yesterday, city officials were breathing a cautious sigh of relief when they learned that Mr. Neall does not support the council's decision. But they were not about to take any chances.
Mayor Alfred Hopkins met with the executive to express his opposition to the jail expansion. And the City Council plans to introduce a resolution opposing the expansion at its meeting Monday night.
"We want to make sure the new jail doesn't end up at Jennifer Road. Or at least, if there's a process, that Annapolis officials are involved in the process," said City Administrator Michael Mallinoff.
They shouldn't have to worry, Ms. Hayman said, because Mr. Neall thinks the County Council made the wrong decision.
"The selection of the Jennifer Road site by the council is a solution that is not a solution," she argued. "It appears that the site that was picked was the most politically expedient, not necessarily in the best long-term interests of the county."
Mr. Neall will include a proposal for an $8 million, 300-bed addition to the current detention center in next year's capital budget as a temporary measure. "That should buy us about two or 2 1/2 years," Ms. Hayman said.
Detention center officials have warned that overcrowding is becoming a critical problem -- it hit an all-time high of more than 700 inmates last weekend -- and that the county is in danger of being subject to a civil rights suit or a court order to reduce the number of inmates.
Council members who voted for the Jennifer Road site maintained yesterday that they still believe it is the best location, despite Mr. Neall's opposition. The four members inspected Montgomery County's detention center Wednesday afternoon and contend that the pre-fabricated concrete modules it used to build a low-cost facility can work in this county. They estimated that a 650-bed facility can be built at Jennifer Road with modular construction for about $19 million.