MY TURN: Facts, not fiction, about the jailPublished 5:20pm Saturday, March 15, 2014
The Beaufort County Detention Center is rated to hold 85 inmates. It has 70 male beds, 13 female beds and 2 single cells. The facility is separated into several cellblocks. This allows the jail staff to properly classify the prisoners. Classification reduces the operational capacity of the jail. An example of this is the 13-bed, female cellblock. It is rarely full, and male inmates cannot be mixed with female inmates. Classification reduces the operational capacity of the jail to 75 inmates plus or minus a few.
The Sept. 13, 2013, court order from Judge Sermons stated that overpopulation of the jail is not in compliance with the operating permit of the facility, is dangerous to staff and inmates and results in health and safety issues on a regular basis. Due to this, inmates above the operational limit of the facility are housed offsite in other detentions centers. These can almost be anywhere.
The Beaufort County jail population varies greatly, but the trend is up. It is not unreasonable that the average jail population will be 110 in the near future. This results in 35 inmates housed offsite in other facilities at a cost of $55 a day or $702,625 a year to Beaufort County taxpayers. As time goes by, the number will increase and become 70 instead of 35. The cost will double to $1,405,250. The entire debt service of the Jail is approximately $950,000 a year and includes a law-enforcement center, 911 and emergency management. It also includes funds for renovations and modernization of the courthouse.
Beaufort County is not presently housing Beaufort County misdemeanor prisoners. The facility does not have space, so they are housed at other county jails. The N.C. misdemeanor program pays counties $38 dollars a day to house misdemeanor prisoners. This has helped the state close several prisons in North Carolina.
Presently, 20 to 25 Beaufort County misdemeanor prisoners are housed at other facilities. It’s not unreasonable that a new Beaufort County jail would house 30 misdemeanor prisoners and receive annual revenue of $417,240. This would pay most of the cost of the new help needed for the facility at no cost to the taxpayer. The jail/law-enforcement center would take three years to complete.
The point is that the citizens are eventually going to pay for a new jail whether they get it or not. I’d hate to see the county spend the money and not get one.
I have heard various individuals say that those who support the jail are going to move the courthouse out of the City of Washington. The people that say this are against the jail. The four commissioners who support the jail have no intention of moving the courthouse anywhere. Improvements to the courthouse are included as part of the jail project.
Tax-rate increases of 15 percent and 15 cents are being forecast by groups and various individuals against the jail. One cent on the tax rate in Beaufort County is equivalent to $550,000. If the debt service is $950,000, the cost of the jail/law-enforcement center is 1.73 cents per $100 in property valuation, or 3.3 percent. The taxpayer would eventually pay this and more if the facility is not built.
Al Klemm, a Republican, is a member of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.