Baltimore County jail expansion project on schedule for completion by next year


Though hidden from view by fencing and a 30-foot-deep hole, construction on the $72 million expansion of the Baltimore County Detention Center is moving ahead on schedule, project officials say.

"None of the original contractors are over budget," said James P. O'Neill, the recently re-appointed administrator of the county Bureau of Corrections. "We're still in line with the projection to be opening up in November-December of 2004."

The expansion, being carried out in two phases, will more than double the number of beds at the jail. The detention center now has 778 beds.

Tracking the building's growth from the busy intersection of Bosley Avenue and Kenilworth Drive will be difficult during the next four or five months as workers laboring well below street level continue to pour concrete for the foundation, the three-story underground parking garage and the first floor, which will contain support services and storage warehouses, O'Neill said.

Once these levels have been completed -- by approximately midsummer -- workers will begin setting precast concrete segments and the steel framework of the building, which will be more visible to the public, said O'Neill.

"Building a correctional facility is a little bit more intense" because of security concerns, he said. Reinforced steel and concrete fortifications, emergency electrical power, complex computer systems, and cell and perimeter security are all included in the project.

"We are dealing with a very large project in a downtown area," said Carol Moore, the project executive from Gilbane Building Co. of Laurel, the management company hired to oversee construction. "This type of project requires a lot more management and planning because of the space constraints."

Workers have lost a few days to inclement weather. The project was slowed by heavy rain in the fall. However, it has been largely unaffected by snow this winter, Moore said.

The expansion was proposed in the summer of 2000 by then-County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger as a way to ease crowding. It instantly ran into strong opposition from neighbors, who complained they were not consulted before plans were announced.

Opponents of the expansion argued that the new, larger jail would be too near their homes, shops, schools and churches. However, the expansion was approved by voters when it was placed on the ballot in November 2000.

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