Jail Expansion May Be Back On the Table

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Jail Expansion May Be Back On the Table

Leonardtown, MD - 2/5/2013

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By Dick Myers

Commissioner Lawrence Jarboe
Commissioner Lawrence Jarboe

Some form of revised expansion of the St. Mary’s County Detention Center may be back on the table. St. Mary’s County Commissioner Lawrence Jarboe (R: 3rd) brought the subject up Tuesday after talking to Sheriff Tim Cameron.

The commissioners shelved the $24 million project two months ago after the low bid came in $7 million over budget. The commissioners sent a letter to the state, which was to have been a 50-percent partner in a part of the expansion, saying they had withdrawn the proposal.

Last week the commissioners voted to withdraw the $16.2 million set aside for the project in the capital budget. But at the same time they were given an estimate by Director of Public Works and Transportation that improvements to the existing facility, including air conditioning and locking mechanisms, would cost $9.5 million separately from a jail expansion. That work has been included in the jail expansion project.

At Tuesday’s meeting Jarboe said one of his reasons for voting to ax the jail expansion was concern about property ownership. Jarboe passed around a site plan that he said showed that part of the property earmarked for the expansion wasn’t owned by the county, but the state. He said obviously someone made a mistake when the jail expansion was designed.

Jarboe said in his discussion with Cameron the sheriff was willing to do some “value engineering” to revise the project, presumably by scaling it back and also putting the expansion on county land. Jarboe said the sheriff is in discussion with state officials and the sheriff believes the state will still participate in some expansion at their 50 percent share.

Commissioner Daniel Morris (R: 2nd) indicated a willingness to relook at the issue but he wondered if “value engineering” was possible now why it wasn’t brought up two months ago.

Commissioner Todd Morgan (R: 4th) said they needed to act quickly because the legislature in now in their 90-day session and the state needs to be brought back on board. He said the legislative delegation needs to be informed.

Morgan and Commissioner President Francis “Jack” Russell (D) voted against the withdrawal of the jail expansion. With Jarboe now seeming to support some expansion that could presumably flip the vote to a majority in support. The decision making will likely play out during the upcoming Fiscal Year 2014 budget deliberations. The commissioners have to set a budget by May 31.

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