City to address jail locationPublished 9:04pm Friday, February 22, 2013
County commissioners may have voted last week to put a new jail in the Beaufort County Industrial Park, but city officials have yet to jump on board with the plan.
After an unexpected motion at the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners’ retreat on Feb. 14, Commissioners Robert Belcher, Ed Booth, Al Klemm and Jerry Langley, board chairman, voted to locate a new detention center in the county-owned industrial park on U.S. Highway 264, west of Washington. However, the industrial park is a city-county partnership — the city has a 45-percent stake in the project — and city officials are not convinced the jail should be moved.
“We’ve had meetings with downtown merchants. A large majority agreed that we really needed to keep the jail and, more importantly, all county functions in downtown Washington,” said Washington City Manager Josh Kay.
“Ultimately, if you move the jail, they ultimately move other facilities adjacent to the jail,” said City Councilman Doug Mercer, adding that the city is not interested in fostering activities that will move business away from downtown.
Kay said he and other city officials were not aware that county commissioners were considering the industrial park as a location.
Though a committee consisting of stakeholders in a new detention center has met for the past year, drilling down size, design and location, Mercer said city officials did not expect to be consulted during that phase of the planning process.
“I didn’t know that we really needed to have any input on what it contains, what it looks like, if it has a sheriff’s office,” Mercer said. “We had expressed some concern and had wanted to be involved in the decision-making (regarding location), at least to express our opinion. And they went and made a decision and didn’t discuss it with us at all. I’m concerned that they made that decision without any input.
They should at least hear what we’ve got to say. They don’t have to agree with it,” Mercer said.
Mercer also pointed out that the industrial park is located within city limits and therefore subject to city zoning ordinances.
Washington City Council will be addressing the issue at Monday’s council meeting.
“After Monday, you’ll know what the council’s official view is,” Kay said.