Charles County Commissioner Vice President Reuben Collins urged the Department of Juvenile Services to consider other options for the Southern Region Children’s Center, current planned for Waldorf. Dring a press conference on Monday afternoon Collins suggested options in St. Mary’s County or Charlotte Hall would be more appropriate.
“On July 31st, I voted, along with three of my fellow Charles County Commissioners, to set forth a resolution opposing the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services’ selection of the Acton Lane Industrial Park site in Waldorf for a planned regional juvenile detention center,” Collins said. “I remain steadfast in my opposition on this matter. I am here today to speak out for the residents in District 3, in particular those living in northern Waldorf, who would be affected most greatly by the construction of a juvenile detention facility in Waldorf.”
Collins said the Waldorf location did not meet the criteria set by the Maryland State Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) because of its proximity to several Waldorf neighborhoods and two schools, the cost to build the detention center and because the location does not have sustainable water and sewage. Collins suggested a location at the existing Southern Maryland Pre-Release Center would be more central to all the locations it would serve and came with a considerably lower price tag, calling it “fiscally irresponsible” to build the detention center in Waldorf.
Collins also said there was a site off MD-235 in St. Mary’s County that would also meet the criteria.
“I want to make it clear, if there’s nothing else, it’s not about finding a site where we can pit the Waldorf community against another community,” Collins said in response to a question about the Southern Maryland Pre-Release Unit location. “My intent is to keep the citizens of Waldorf informed. It was unprecedented that the entire delegation as well as the BOCC approved their disapproval and DJS continued to move forward with this site.”
Two people asked Collins where Commissioner President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) stood. Collins said he could not speak in regards to her position. Pauleen Brewer, president of the Hughesville Business and Civic Alliance, did speak to Kelly’s position.
“Two people brought up Commissioner Kelly and where she stands,” Brewer said. “I’d like to tell what she said to me, which is that she was supportive of opposing this site and she’s been recovering from surgery and not coming in full time.”
“The politicizing of the proposed ‘Children's Center’ in Waldorf is disappointing,” she said in her statement. “Comments like ‘I will lay down in front of the bulldozers before I will allow the site to be built in Waldorf’ as made by Delegate C.T. Wilson serve no purpose and are disrespectful to the Secretary of the Dept. of Juvenile Services. Statements by Commissioners at Town Hall Meetings and in Press Releases expressing support for Hughesville as the alternate location are premature, unfortunate and unfair to Hughesville residents. They deserve the same courtesy as we have extended to other regions of the county.
“Our role as elected officials should be cautious and protective of our citizens' safety and property values. Particularly, at the local level, we need to work with DJS to ensure that our citizens receive as much information as possible. Thereafter, we must insist that our citizens are engaged as advisers in the design, build-out, security and operation of any facility.”
“I’d like to express my appreciation for the residents,” Collins said to close out his press conference. “Your efforts were not unnoticed. I think the state understood clearly what the residents felt. Final comment, it was brought back to my attention with some of the conerns about Hughesville. I respect Hughesville residents being concerned about any facility which would be detrimental to our economic development.”
Commissioner Debra Davis (D: 2nd) said she was in support of everything Collins said. Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D: 4th) could not attend, but he also issued a statement.
“I believe that the densely populated area which has been chosen does not meet the criteria established by the state and I’m disappointed that the concerns of the thousands of residents of that area have not been taken in to account,” Rucci’s statement reads. “The cost for the purchase of the property exceeds three million dollars and it will be placed in a ‘dense residential’ area. Both of these state criteria should negate the selection of this location.”
Jay Cleary, spokesman for the Department of Juvenile Services, released a statement which said the Southern Maryland Pre-Release Unit does not have a sufficient water treatment plant and that the Waldorf location is still the best location for their needs.
"During the two-plus year process of researching and evaluating 121 potential locations in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's Counties to construct the proposed Southern Regional Children's Center, the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) has always welcomed suggestions from the public about possible properties that may meet its needs.
“DJS previously identified 2 potential sites located off of Maryland Route 235 in St. Mary's County. One property was not for sale and the other was located on environmentally-sensitive wetlands and exceeded DJS's cost appropriation of $3 million.
“DJS has also researched a property next to the Southern Maryland Pre-Release Unit in the Hughesville / Charlotte Hall area of Charles County. While the Pre-Release Unit has an on-site wastewater treatment plant, DJS has learned from the operator of the plant that there is not enough existing capacity to handle the additional wastewater needs of a 48-bed juvenile facility.
“At this time, the Acton Lane site remains the site that comprehensively meets DJS's needs. DJS is continuing to work with Charles County to determine whether the needs of the proposed Southern Regional Children's Center can be addressed within the existing utility infrastructure."