Some commissioners don’t want new jail

Published 4:56 pm Thursday, July 4, 2013

“What it comes down to is I don’t want to build a new jail.”

Commissioner Gary Brinn said those words during the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Monday. He isn’t alone when it comes to board members not wanting to build a new jail because they believe repairing and renovating the existing jail would suffice instead. Commissioner Hood Richardson said there’s no rush to build a new jail because the existing one, even though it’s aging, has not been condemned.

At first, Brinn made a motion to study whether renovating the existing jail and possibly adding an annex behind the Beaufort County Courthouse would meet the county’s jail needs.

“I’m not an engineer, don’t know costs on this stuff, but I believe by doing this we can save the taxpayers of Beaufort County between $12 (million) and $15 million. In today’s economic climate, folks, that’s a lot of money,” Brinn said.

Brinn continued: “That being said, there are three words that I really care for: we, the people. We, the people, does not mean we, the commissioners. It doesn’t mean we, the sheriff. It does not mean we, the judges. It’s we, the people. We’re (commissioners) duly elected to fight for the taxpayers of Beaufort County and guard their money safely. I think it’s irresponsible to say we’re going to spend $28 (million) to $30 million of money that citizens of Beaufort County don’t have and don’t want to pay it.”

Brinn said Beaufort County residents should contact the commissioners because they “ought to have this input.”

Richardson warned Brinn that asking for such a study might not be the wise thing to do.

“Well, I think Commissioner Brinn has put himself in a trap without realizing it because you can’t bring today’s jail fully up to what is considered to be the standards of a modern jail. Just about 75 of the jails in the state don’t come up to the standards of a modern jail,” Richardson said. “I can give you the answer to that study. No, we can’t do that. But the question that comes around is the jail we have adequate to do the job? It has never been condemned by any organization, other than a few big shots around here who think they know everything.”

Richardson asked Brinn to withdraw his motion because he would be placing himself in a trap.

Brinn replied: “How would I put myself into a trap just to see what a study (reveals)?”

Richardson responded: “The answer is no that you can’t do it. Then, you’re going to have to build a new jail. If the answer is not to the question that you posed, then you’re going in the direction of building a new jail. I don’t think we need to build a new jail.”

Brinn replied: “Well, I don’t either.”

Commissioner Al Klemm said any renovations to the existing jail that reach a specified threshold (50 percent or more of the physical value of the jail) would require the entire jail to meet existing building codes and jail standards. Klemm said meeting those existing codes and standards would be difficult and costly. Current jail standards is for a dayroom are a minimum floor space of 105 square feet or 35 square feet per inmate, whichever is greater, Klemm said.

“If you have 100 prisoners, you’ve got to have 3,500 square feet of dayroom. We, essentially, don’t have that in the present jail,” Klemm said.

“That’s why you don’t even want to ask that question,” Klemm said.

Brinn withdrew is motion for the study he initially wanted.

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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