SACRAMENTO — Elected officials from the tiny desert city of Adelanto won at least a temporary reversal Wednesday of a state Department of Corrections decision to drop plans for a new maximum-security prison in their community.
Saying that they badly want the new prison and have negotiated with state officials for 8 1/2 years to get it, three City Council members accused department officials of overstating potential noise problems resulting from flights out of nearby George Air Force Base.
"I live on a ranch that is a mile from where the fence would be, and I tell you it is so peaceful out there it is pathetic,' Councilwoman Charlotte Foster told members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Prison Construction and Operations.
The committee, chaired by Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside), ordered corrections officials to keep plans for the 1,150-cell prison alive for now. Meanwhile, committee members planned to view the site and conduct new noise measurements.
Sen. H. L. Richardson (R-Glendora), in whose district the prison would be located, took partial responsibility in a written statement for the decision to scrap plans for a prison at Adelanto, and a Richardson aide predicted that the committee will agree that the site should be abandoned once it has studied all the facts.
The committee got a one-sided and distorted view of the situation when Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Hawthorne) raised the Adelanto site "as a surprise issue" Wednesday, Richardson aide Michael Carrington said.
Although the department has invested $1.4 million and put "three to four years" of planning into the San Bernardino County site, Corrections Department Deputy Director Dennis Dunne said, officials are now convinced that noise from the Air Force base would be "somewhat problematical."
Besides negative psychological impacts, Dunne said, the attorney general's office, which was contacted at Richardson's urging, has advised that the noise levels could result in lawsuits from both prison inmates and employees.
Richardson did not attend the committee hearing.
His printed statement commending corrections officials for a "difficult, but appropriate decision" was circulated Wednesday, however, in response to one distributed a day earlier by Floyd.
Floyd said that Richardson, a staunch law-and-order conservative, "believes in building prisons so long as they are not in his district."
He said that Richardson "didn't care that Adelanto's children go to school subject to the same noise levels he found inhumane for rapists and murderers."
Adelanto is "one of the few places that actually wants a prison . . . ," Floyd said.
Carrington, however, said that Richardson's opposition to the facility is a response to considerable community concern over the proposed prison. He added that an overwhelming majority of San Bernardino County voters said, in a 1982 advisory referendum, that they wanted no new prison "because we already have too many (four)."
But voters in Adelanto supported new prison construction in that election, county records show.
The Adelanto City Council members' appearance before the committee Wednesday was the second demonstration of support at the Capitol for a new prison during the last few weeks. Late last month, three busloads of townspeople from Blythe picketed to show support for a new prison in their community.
In a related matter, Assemblywoman Gloria Molina (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill Wednesday that would require that any new jail or prison in Los Angeles County be at least 10 miles from any existing incarceration facilities with capacities totaling more than 9,000 inmates.
Two new county jails and a 1,750-cell state prison in downtown Los Angeles are in various stages of planning in the county.