A citizen committee recommended three possible sites last week for a massive new joint Prince William-Manassas jail: one on Wellington Road, one just west of the McCoart Government Center and a third near the Independent Hill landfill.

The three parcels all have room for a jail large enough to house 2,300 prisoners, although the jail board expects to need only 1,150 beds in the next 20 years.

The new jail will be built in stages. The county's six-year building plan calls for a 400-bed facility to be completed in 1994, with planning for a 200-bed expansion to begin the following year.

The 13-member citizen committee worked with a consulting firm, District-based Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, to investigate 37 sites before settling on the three finalists. The committee will rank the sites after holding public meetings on July 23 and 25.

The Board of County Supervisors will hold public hearings before making the final decision, probably sometime in October, said Eric Mays, the project manager for the county. The county has budgeted $5 million for lease-purchase of the jail land, and negotiations will begin shortly with the property owners, Mays said. Jail officials may not buy all the available land in each parcel, he said.

City and county officials have worked hard to ensure that this time the jail site will have ample space for expansion. The existing Adult Detention Center, located in downtown Manassas, was planned for 190 inmates, but held as many as 455. Jail officials have spent the last year struggling to meet court-ordered deadlines for reducing the population to 255.

A 200-bed modular addition opened recently on the grounds of the Manassas jail, but officials expect it to fill up rapidly, as the county's population continues to climb.

Citizen committee members said they placed a heavy emphasis on finding sites near projects with compatible uses. The 140-acre Wellington Road site abuts an industrial park, and the 62-acre Independent Hill parcel lies between the county landfill and the Juvenile Detention Home.

However, Supervisor Terrence Spellane (I-Coles) criticized the selection of the 72-acre parcel on Davis Ford Road, near the McCoart building, which is in his district. "The one up by McCoart is totally inappropriate. It's too close to housing," he said.

"The key thing is security," said William J. Becker (R-Brentsville), who represents the Wellington Road area.

The other key factors in the decision, said committee Chairman Bob Harvey, were finding a centrally located site with flat topography and easy access to utility lines. The Wellington Road site does particularly well on the latter two criteria, while the Davis Ford road parcel is in an attractive location, committee members said.