Archived Story

Fast, cheap or easy?

Published 9:31pm Friday, February 22, 2013

The news that Beaufort County Commissioners voted 4-3 in favor of site selection for a proposed new jail at the Industrial Park off Highway 264 has caused some consternation with residents. Many have questioned that decision, particularly on our Sound Off line: Why not build behind the courthouse since the jail already exists in downtown Washington? Why build it in the Industrial Park? There’s no way it will attract industry with a jail planted in its midst.
Fair questions. But take a closer look at the situation and what you’ll find is a matter of money — saving taxpayers money. In the long run, building a single-story facility will cost less than a multistory one with less operational costs (multistory facilities double the number of staff needed to secure a floor).
The commissioners should be commended for keeping the taxpayers in mind when considering the jail location.
However, the quandary of moving a jail away from the courthouse and historic town center is not making its first appearance. It’s happened before, elsewhere. And from some eyewitness accounts, at first, there’s no issue. But there is risk over time. Perhaps when the jail debt gets paid in full years later.
Does the focus then shift to the courthouse? Is the logical next step moving that building’s location, too?
Elsewhere, vacant downtown storefronts are testament to a process, though well intended, that proved destructive to a community.
The rule of thumb is that the most you’ll ever get from any endeavor is two out of three: fast, cheap or easy. Construction-wise, it would likely be faster to build a jail outside downtown; for sure, it would be cheaper. But the choice is far from easy, especially considering the potential impact on downtown Washington.

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