Board to discuss courthouse outages

Published 5:09 pm Friday, June 14, 2013

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners will meet in a special called meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday to discuss matters pertaining to the county jail and courthouse.

A notice from County Manager Randell Woodruff indicates the board may enter a closed session, if needed.

The meeting will focus on recent developments at or concerning the jail, including recent power outages there, Woodruff said Friday afternoon.

“That’s what we’ll specifically be discussing — things that we’ve been dealing with in the past couple of weeks related to the power issues, the electrical issues and repairs and things that we’ve made and inspections,” Woodruff said. “We’ve had (a visit) from the state jail inspector. We’ve had an electrical contractor, an electrical engineer; and then today (Friday) the fire marshal in the building and, I think, the building inspectors, as well, doing a walk-through.”

Earlier this month, two power outages within three days at the courthouse resulted in 67 inmates being sent to other inmate-holding facilities in the area — one in Bertie County, one in Pitt County and one in Pamlico County, according to Woodruff.

“We hope that … it will work out that we’ll be able to move the inmates back in early next week sometime. That’s going to be up to Judge (Wayland J.) Sermons. We’ll have to present all the information and documentation to him and let him make the decision. That’s my understanding.”

Commissioner Gary Brinn said power issue at the jail is a serious one.

“There’s a lot of issues that we need to discuss and hammer out — and sooner the better,” Brinn said Friday afternoon.

“Some of us think that after we got our emails from Washington Electric (Utilities) that the problem in the jail is a fairly easy fix. We think just as soon as we get an OK from our electrical inspector that we think that the prisoners should be move back here to Beaufort County,” Brinn said.

Brinn expects the board to discuss long-term solutions to the problems.

“That situation has to be addressed. … That could have been catastrophic. Even though the jail is fireproof — I don’t think we would have had a fire there — but, you know, electrical smoke is a bad thing. That situation has to be addressed, and I think we have to go in there and make sure that all the wiring in that jail system is properly maintained.”

Brinn said he has concerns about how the inmates were evacuated from the jail and the security issues that evacuation posed.

“The (deputy) sheriffs had to make a human chain because we have no fences back there,” he said.

The meeting will be held at the Beaufort County Administrative Building, 121 W. Third St., Washington.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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