Archived Story

Committees to address issues

Published 8:17pm Monday, June 10, 2013

A three-member committee of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meets at 10 a.m. Wednesday to discuss ideas related to managing the county’s jail population.

Board Chairman Jerry Langley appointed the committee. The jail population has been discussed at several recent board meetings. Commissioners Hood Richardson, Ed Booth and Langley are on the committee.

Richardson has raised concerns about the jail population, saying some inmates are being incarcerated longer than they should be because the court system, including the district attorney’s office, is taking too long to move some criminal cases toward dispositions. The longer inmates are kept in the jail, they more money the county spends on housing and feeding them. Also, Richardson said, the county has to cover medical costs while inmates remain in the jail.

Last week, the public defender’s office handling criminal cases in Beaufort County made a presentation to the board.

Robert Womble, who supervises the public defender’s office, told the board that office is helping reduce the jail population. From Feb. 1 to May 30, according to Womble, the average population at the jail dropped from 98 inmates to 68 inmates, about a 30-percent decline. Womble attributes a significant amount of that drop to the public defender’s office expediting criminal cases through the courts.

On Monday at 4 p.m., a three-member committee of the Board of Commissioners meets to discuss the issue of requiring buffering around energy projects in the county.

Commissioners Gary Brinn, Booth and Richardson comprise that committee. The issue surfaced after Paul Woolard complained about a solar-farm project adjacent to his property damaging that property.

Last month, the board, with a unanimous vote, directed county staff to request the developers — SunEnergy 1 and Duke Energy Renewables — to find a new entrance to the project to prevent further damage to Woolard’s property.

Commissioner Gary Brinn, who’s known Woolard for 30 years, discussed his views on Woolard’s situation.

“I went down and looked at, and I know that I would hate to walk out every morning and have to look at that. I have been down there in the afternoon to see the glare he’s been talking about, but he’s a truthful man, and I’m sure there’s a glare there. … We can’t help Paul right now, but there’s other people in Beaufort County who are going to be affected by the very same thing,” Brinn said at the May meeting. “I think as county commissioners we were voted in to serve and protect the citizens of Beaufort County. These are the things right here — are the one we need to protect. We can’t help Paul, but we can help other people that they don’t have to go through the same thing that Paul is going through.”

Brinn said he would like to have a county ordinance that would “guarantee that no property owner would every have to step out of their house and look at that.” Brinn called for a setback of at least 100 feet from the right of way.

“I’d like to have more, but I will take the 100 feet,” he said.

Brinn made a motion to that effect, but he withdrew that motion after other commissioners raised questions about whether Brinn’s suggestion could be considered spot zoning, which is not allowed in North Carolina. The board asked staff members to research the issue and report back to it with their findings.

Now, the committee will study the issue and report to the full board its findings and recommendations

Both meetings will be held at the Beaufort County Administration Building, 121 W. Third St., Washington.

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