LAUREL, Md. — The guards opened the gates allowing us to see for ourselves how approximately 300 workers live surrounding the Laurel Park Racetrack after a whistle blower showed pictures of deplorable conditions, which Baltimore Delegate Nick Mosby took public.
Donna O'Connor has spent more than two decades here working with the horses and living in a 12-by-12 foot room.
"I was very upset about that and appalled. We were very misrepresented,” said O’Connor, “Some of it was ludicrous, saying that residents had to use a horse trough as a sink, and they included a picture and it was a male urinal."
While some new housing exists on the grounds, many of the dilapidated units, which the owner's company pledged to address more than a decade ago, remain stuck in time, and a personal tour with Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman did little to change Mosby's mind.
"The bathrooms are atrocious – mold. The showers are atrocious. We just have to do better. We're better than this as a state,” said Mosby, “You know hundreds of millions of dollars have been given out over the last 16 years, since this problem was originally talked about and seen, and we have to do better than this."
Mosby is calling on lawmakers to back off on proposed legislation, which would allow the Stronach Group to use lottery money designated for racetrack facilities to bond improvements in Laurel at Pimlico's expense with the fate of the Preakness Race lying in the balance.
"There's $90 million forthcoming before that program ends. They're saying, 'Just give us 60 of that so we can use it now,'” said Pittman, “Take the other 30. Spend it on something good. Spend it in Park Heights."
The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association also came to the owner's defense in how they treat their own.
"A lot of people felt that these things were taken out of context and they were used in a political tug of war," said Executive Director David Richardson.
Mosby says conditions on the backstretch rise above the politics of keeping the Preakness in Baltimore.
"I wouldn't want my wife or my children or someone I love to ever have to be subjected to these types of living conditions."