Jail expansion pushed into mayoral campaign Callahan makes funding delay an issue


Annapolis mayoral candidate Dennis M. Callahan said last night at a public debate that the chairman of the state Senate Budget and Taxation Committee has agreed to delay funding for a major expansion of the detention center.

But contacted at home late last night, the chairman denied making such a promise.

"I never said I would do that arbitrarily myself, but it is something

that has to go through a process," said Sen. Laurence Levitan, a Montgomery County Democrat. "The issue has to come before the committee. . . . What I agreed to do is what the committee does all the time, and that is to make sure all tha Anne Arundel County senators are on board before we fund the project.

"We're certainly going to listen to the parties," Mr. Levitan said "We need to get consent from the senators. Last year we couldn't get the

consent we were looking for. . . . We're just not going to do anything until the [Anne Arundel County] senators are satisfied that it's going to be in the right place."

During a debate of mayoral candidates at St. John's College, Mr. Callahan said that in September he recommended to Senator Levitan that the state withhold construction money for a year until a new council is elected so that it can reach a consensus on a site for a new jail.

"We now have a one-year window, and I think that jail will not go where it is now," said Mr. Callahan, a former Democrat and mayor who is running as an independent.

Mr. Callahan, reached after the debate and informed that Mr. Levitan denied agreeing to delay funding for the jail, backed off.

"I did not say tonight, and I did not even hint tonight that Larry Levitan made that commitment," Mr. Callahan said. "Larry Levitan thought there was merit in the suggestion,

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that the whole proces was going to be . . . started again. In other words, it's not a finished deal."

Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad, a Democrat who represents the Annapolis area and is a strong foe of expanding the existing jail, was unimpressed by Mr. Callahan's announcement.

"It's just another one of Callahan's ploys," Mr. Winegrad said. "It's not going to help, and he knows it."

Last November, the council voted to double the capacity of the jail on Jennifer Road, just outside Annapolis -- at a cost of $71 million -- after residents fiercely opposed building a new jail in Millersville, the choice of a site selection committee.

Because of a term-limit measure that was approved last year, three council members -- David G. Boschert, Maureen Lamb and Virginia

P. Clagett -- will have to leave office. Only Mr. Boschert voted to expand the jail at its present site.

Mr. Callahan said at the debate that Sen. Michael J. Wagner also supports waiting for the new council, although Mr. Wagner said he would like the General Assembly to appropriate the jail money and have the new council consider the site issue after it is elected in December 1994.

In the past, state lawmakers have required a site to be named before awarding state funds for a project. The county is requesting $8.25 million in state funds for the $17.5-million first phase. The state is expected to pay about half the total cost.

"I talked to Callahan, and I support his move to make [the jail] a campaign issue and let a new council state their positions and be responsible enough to admit we need a new jail somewhere in the county," said Mr. Wagner, a North County Democrat.

But Mr. Wagner said emphatically that he did not want to block the county's funding request.

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