Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin told Anne Arundel County government, civic and business leaders yesterday that he has not abandoned hope of moving the District of Columbia's juvenile detention center to the city, even as D.C. officials push for reconstruction near the existing site abutting Fort Meade.
In the closed-door meeting at the Maryland City fire station, according to several people who attended, Cardin said he is soliciting the help of the O'Malley administration and congressional colleagues to revive his stalled legislation to eject the Oak Hill Youth Center from the 888-acre site in Laurel and split the land between Anne Arundel County and the National Security Agency. He emphasized that only an act of Congress can force Oak Hill to move.
A spokesman for Cardin, who scheduled the meeting, did not return a call for comment. A spokeswoman for County Executive John R. Leopold confirmed he attended but said he "would respect the wishes of the senator and not comment."
As a congressman, Cardin introduced legislation in 2004 and 2005 to close Oak Hill. After winning a Senate seat in November, the Baltimore Democrat reintroduced it this year with Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
But to Cardin's surprise, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration unveiled plans in April to replace the dilapidated facility with a $46 million replacement on the land, which is controlled by the district.
To get Fenty's attention, Cardin placed a hold on legislation allowing him to take over D.C. schools. Cardin removed the hold a few days later without stopping the construction.
Asbestos cleanup has been completed in two buildings, and once work has been completed on a third, crews will clear the site for a new Oak Hill that would house 60 juveniles, said LaShon Seastrunk, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.
D.C. officials said last month that completion is set for May 2008.