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Jimeno makes 11th-hour bid to delay Glen Burnie jail County executive remains firm in support of site


State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno made an 11th-hour bid yesterday to head off the Glen Burnie detention center, which he has fought to keep out of North County from its inception.

With bulldozers scheduled to roll onto the Ordnance Road property late next month, Mr. Jimeno asked County Executive John G. Gary to postpone construction of the $30 million center for at least a year.

In a letter to the executive, Mr. Jimeno, a Brooklyn Park Democrat, wrote that pending state legislation could qualify Maryland for $100 million in federal prison-construction funds that could defray the county's costs.

But Mr. Gary, a Republican who endorsed the 84-acre jail site during his 1994 campaign, dismissed Mr. Jimeno's appeal.

"I have no intention of postponing the decision," said Mr. Gary, who had not received the letter but knew of its contents. "The [site] decision has been made, and we're not going to rethink it at this point."

Mr. Jimeno's letter may be the final shot against the proposed Glen Burnie detention center, a symbol of tension between Anne Arundel's northern and southern constituencies.

State Sen. C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Millersville Republican, had been expected to sign the letter. But Mr. Middlebrooks declined before it was mailed yesterday afternoon.

The County Council approved the 400-bed center in March 1994 as a remedy to overcrowding at the Jennifer Road facility, which opened almost 30 years ago.

Built for 550 inmates, the old jail now holds more than 700 people.

Under the plan, the county will spend $13.2 million on the new prison while the state contributes the $16.8 million balance.

Grading on the site will begin late next month or early in April. The center is scheduled to open in October 1997.

But Mr. Jimeno is lobbying Mr. Gary to postpone the project pending a review of state sentencing policies.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is supporting legislation to create the Maryland Commission on Criminal Sentencing Reform.

After a six-month study, the panel would recommend changes to state criminal-justice policies.

Mr. Glendening has not included money for prison construction in his current budget -- usually a $50 million to $60 million item -- pending the sentencing review.

Mr. Jimeno is co-sponsoring the legislation, and is asking Mr. Gary to follow the governor's lead and delay new prison construction.

Specifically, Mr. Jimeno has advised Mr. Gary not to seek a $12.4 million state contribution to the jail project this year.

County officials already have submitted the request to the General Assembly, which is expected to approve the grant as part of the state's budget.

Mr. Jimeno said the commission could recommend that Maryland adopt federal "truth in sentencing" requirements, which would qualify the state for an estimated $100 million in federal money.

Maryland receives no money from Washington for prison construction.

In addition, Mr. Jimeno said, new sentencing rules could make the Glen Burnie jail unnecessary by freeing up prison space.

"I don't think he's going to be very receptive," Mr. Jimeno said of Mr. Gary. "But I think it's a concept we have to look at seriously."

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