Jail study funds OK’d

Published 2:06 pm Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved funding for the first step in a study that could lead to the construction of a new jail in the county.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve a contract with Moseley Architects of Charlotte, under which the architectural firm will analyze the county’s space needs for a new jail along with the possible need for a new law-enforcement and E-911 center.

The commissioners voted unanimously to allocate $19,020 plus all travel expenses associated with the firm’s work on the study.

The study will analyze expected growth in the number of inmates that will be housed in a new county jail through 2030. It will use that information to develop space needs for a new jail, according to Todd Davis, senior associate with Moseley Architects.

The company will then develop options for the commissioners and the county’s Jail Study Committee to consider in the construction of a new jail, Davis said.

The study should be completed within 90 to 120 days from its start, he said.

Once county leaders choose an option for the jail’s construction, they will then have to decide where to site the jail, Davis said.

“At some point, a site is going to have to be selected,” he said.

The most contentious issue facing the board and its Jail Study Committee is expected to be the location of the new jail.

While the commissioners generally agree that a new jail should be sited on the north side of the Pamlico River, recent discussions by the panel have shown little agreement on anything else regarding its location.

Commissioner Hood Richardson is one of those who advocates for the construction of a new jail on county-owned land behind the Beaufort County Courthouse between Second and Third streets. Other county leaders have said there is not enough room near the courthouse to build a new jail there.

The vote to allocate funds for the study comes as county leaders learned that Lexan, a brand of polycarbonate resin, recently installed at the jail, currently located in the basement of the Beaufort County Courthouse, does not meet code requirements and will have to be removed by April 13, according to Chief Deputy Kit Campbell.

The Lexan was recently installed at the jail to prevent inmates from throwing items at detention officers, and it is “vital” to their safety, Campbell told the board.

If the material isn’t removed, the county could be required to close the jail, he said.

The commissioners asked County Manager Randell Woodruff and County Attorney Billy Mayo to meet with representatives of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the N.C. Department of Insurance to try to resolve the issue.