Jail closure continues

Published 9:30 pm Wednesday, June 19, 2013




Beaufort County, as of Tuesday, had spent an estimated $36,720 to house its jail inmates at other jail facilities, according to county officials.

That cost — about $3,672 a day — will continue to rise for at least a week, if not longer, because it’s going to take that long to repair the jail so it can once again house inmates, said County Manager Randell Woodruff during a special called meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

“A lot has been accomplished. The problems have been diagnosed, but we still have a little bit of work to do that remains to get the total problem solved so we can get the inmates back in and use the facility again. Pretty much it’s been narrowed down to the dryer we put in, defective wiring in the dryer that we discovered. That’s been agreed to by all the experts,” Woodruff told the board.

The faulty dryer appears to be the source of the problem that resulted in two power outages — June 6 and June 8 — at the jail. After the second outage, 67 inmates were moved to the N.C. Department of Correction facility in Bertie County. Female inmates and juvenile inmates were moved to the Pitt County Detention Center.

Woodruff said the county is proceeding with repairs at the courthouse, which houses the jail in its basement, as fast as it can without compromising safety.

Jim Chrisman, assistant county manager and chief financial officer, issued wrote a memorandum that shows the average cost per day to house one of the county’s inmates at another facility is $52, with the average daily cost for transporting an inmate at $76, which includes the cost of fuel for trips to and from the Bertie County facility.

Those estimates do not include overtime for “pulling in deputies and jail staff for transports, and for medical costs that we are now open to based on no access to ‘in-house’ medical monitoring of our inmates that we have within our own facility,” Chrisman wrote in the memorandum.

“I think it’s real important to point out that everyone involved in this situation has worked very closely together. … The sheriff’s office is going through a difficult time now, having to do all these transports with our inmates, taking them back and forth to three different facilities outside the county. It’s only going to get more difficult next week when court goes back into session,” Woodruff said.

Courts have been closed this week so judges could attend the annual conference for judges.

Board Chairman Jerry Langley said he wants county residents to understand the jail issue is not keeping the county from proceeding with its effort to build a new jail.

“The only thing I think that really needs to be discussed — and I think it’s just a point of clarification — for some strange reason it seems everybody is under the opinion that we are moving backward instead of moving forward as far as a (new) jail is concerned,” Langley said. “Now, unless I’m sadly mistaken — and these commissioners can pretty much speak for themselves — I don’t think we’re at a point that we’ve decided we do not need a new jail. I think the point where we were was a matter of where the new jail be located.”

Commissioner Stan Deatherage weighed in on the issue.

“There’s just one thing. The amount of money we’re spending daily not to have prisoners in that jail is a real world of math. What ever we’re spending a day, we’re moving that much further away each day from getting a new jail. I can tell you that.”