St. Mary’s commissioners Morgan, Russell lament jail project -- Gazette.Net


Commission President Jack Russell (D) and Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) both expressed regret Tuesday that the project to renovate and expand the St. Mary’s County Adult Detention Center is not moving ahead.

Rather than embark on a $35 million project, which would have included at least $6 million from the state, the majority of the commissioners last month, including Russell, chose instead a $9.5 million project to make repairs and replacements to the county jail.

The jail’s capacity will remain at 230 inmates, rather than 460 beds planned in the addition. Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) said he expects the daily population to reach 300 this summer.

During a budget amendment Tuesday, Morgan said, “I’m saddened the jail project can’t move forward. I do feel the jail is a need, not just a want.”

“And I share your concerns,” Russell said, “almost to the point of having tears running down my face over it.”

The jail addition project bounced in and out of county government’s building budget this year after six years of planning for it. In December, Commissioners Larry Jarboe (R), Cindy Jones (R) and Dan Morris (R) voted against it after bids came in $7 million too high. Jarboe then reconsidered his position and wanted to bring the jail addition back. Russell initially supported the idea, but changed his mind and voted against bringing the project back in March when he said, “We haven’t got a good track record voting on projects. I’m not going to vote to move it ahead. I’m tired of wasting time ... and just fooling around with the state.”

The fiscal 2014 operating and capital budget for St. Mary’s County government is scheduled for completion by the end of May after a public hearing on April 30.