State legislators representing Annapolis met last night with a group of 200 residents fighting to stop a major expansion of the county jail in their historic city and urged them to keep fighting.
But the residents were also urged to look beyond the four District 30 lawmakers, who say they already oppose the proposed $71 million jail expansion. The legislative district includes Annapolis.
During the meeting at the Anne Arundel Medical Center, on Jennifer Road across from the jail, Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad suggested that the residents contact the other four senators representing the county. If three of the county's five senators oppose funding the jail, the rest of the Senate might reject the proposal.
"Concentrate on them," Mr. Winegrad said. "You don't have to write to me anymore."
Members of the Civic Associations of Annapolis wanted to meet with the delegation to enlist its support in stopping the state from funding about half of the expansion project, as the county has requested.
Del. Michael E. Busch suggested that the opponents of the jail expansion focus not on the state level but on the County Council, which decided last November to expand the jail at its current location on Jennifer Road after rejecting the recommendation of a citizens panel that a new facility be built in Millersville.
"We really believe it's probably the most irresponsible decision we've seen the County Council make in our years of public service," Mr. Busch said, speaking for his House colleagues, Del. John C. Astle and Del. Phillip D. Bissett.
"Almost everyone in our community is opposed," Mr. Busch said. "And we have to do something to generate interest in the councilmanic districts and the legislative districts outside of Annapolis."
Mr. Busch said the best shot at blocking the expansion is to pressure council members David Boschert, Diane Evans, Maureen Lamb and Virginia Clagett to form a coalition and pass a resolution urging County Executive Robert R. Neall to reject the Jennifer Road site.
Ms. Lamb, who attended the meeting, said she was confident that Ms. Clagett would vote with her and that she thought she could also persuade Mr. Boschert. Ms. Evans would be "the key vote to trying to do something with the County Council," Ms. Lamb said.
Ms. Evans and Mr. Boschert voted for the Jennifer Road expansion, Ms. Lamb and Ms. Clagett against.
Dan Masterson of the civic association presented a slide show highlighting the cost of the expansion, which he said would make it the most expensive county jail project in Maryland history, far exceeding the $27.5 million the Prince George's County facility cost in 1987.
Mr. Masterson disputed the county's contention that it intends to build only an addition with 600 beds, bringing the facility's capacity to 1,200 inmates. Based on the county's own jail population projections, it will need a facility that can house 1,580 prisoners by 2008, he said.
The $71 million construction figure is "not the reality of this jail. The reality of this jail at this site is more like $100 million," Mr. Masterson said.
Moreover, he said, the county will need to build another jail on another site because the projected inmate population after 2008 would outgrow the expanded Jennifer Road facility.