Here we go again.
The Anne Arundel County Council will once again tackle the issue that refuses to die: where to put the sorely needed new detention center. In a duel of two resolutions, Glen Burnie will be pitted against Crownsville.
"We're going to have the showdown of the north and the south," warned Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland.
The Pasadena Republican has sponsored a resolution recommending a new jail in Crownsville. He has been joined by his North County colleagues, George Bachman, D-Linthicum, and Edward Middlebrooks, D-Severn. The three wrote earlier this month to state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, asking him to consider using buildings and ground at the Crownsville State Hospital for a detention center.
The Crownsville resolution came as a response to council members Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, Virginia P. Clagett, D-South River, and David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville, who sponsored an earlier resolution to place the new jail on county-owned land at Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie.
Sitting smack in the middle is Councilwoman Diane Evans, to whom many residents will likely direct their remarks at tonight's public hearing. Ms. Evans said she conditionally favors the Ordnance Road resolution, but has said she would keep an open mind until the vote.
County Executive Robert R. Neall had proposed two years ago putting the jail on Ordnance Road, but the idea was shot down by intense community opposition and by the discovery of radioactive contamination left from when the property was part of a U.S. Army ordnance depot.
Attention then shifted to putting the jail in Millersville, the choice of an advisory committee, and then to expansion of the county Detention Center near Annapolis, the choice of the council.
But Gov. William Donald Schaefer shot down the idea of expanding the jail on Jennifer Road in October when he denied the county's request for state money.
In an "Annapolis compromise" worked out earlier this year, community associations from Annapolis agreed to allow renovation of the Jennifer Road jail if the prisoner capacity did not increase -- and if the county agreed to build a second jail facility in Glen Burnie at Ordnance Road, after cleanup of the contamination was complete.
Dan Masterson, president of the Civic Associations of Annapolis, which negotiated the compromise, said he can show that a jail with 600 beds and 18,000 square feet of administrative space can be built at Ordnance Road for less than $20 million. Including the renovation at Jennifer Road, the whole project can be done for between $45 million and $50 million, he claims.
Estimates for the original jail at Ordnance Road were for $80 million, and the three-phase expansion at Jennifer Road was estimated at $71 million.
"What we're trying to do is just get it done and get it done as cheaply as we can," Mr. Masterson said. "We are willing to share in the responsibility."
Mr. Holland said he thinks the whole debate is a moot point, because Mr. Neall's administration has not requested any state money this year for a jail, and has no money in its own capital budget for renovation of the Jennifer Road jail, which all parties agree must be done.
"This project is dead," Mr. Holland said. "It looks like this administration has walked away from the jail-siting issue. We could site the thing in downtown Glen Burnie and it wouldn't mean a thing, because there's no money to build it."
The council will not vote on the resolutions until after a second public hearing, set for 7:30 p.m. March 14 at Glen Burnie High School.
Tonight, the council also will hear testimony on a bill, sponsored by Ms. Lamb, that would repeal increased pension benefits for elected and appointed officials granted by a 1989 law. The proposed bill would force those who have begun collecting the increased benefits to repay them to the county along with 4 percent interest.
Tonight's meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.