Top 10 Stories of the Year: No. 7 – Opposition to new jail surfaces

Published 7:25 pm Thursday, December 26, 2013

When it comes to building a new jail in Beaufort County, there’s been debate over where that new jail should be located. There’s also debate over whether a new jail is needed.

Those debates are the No. 7 story on the Washington Daily News’ list of Top 10 stories for 2013.

There’s been plenty of talk about a new jail during 2013.

In January, Commissioner Hood Richardson warned other county officials, including Sheriff Alan Jordan and Beaufort County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jerry Langley, about his concerns with building a new jail, citing size, cost and location among those concerns.

“I’m going to see to it that y’all don’t mess this jail up,” Richardson said then.

After the commissioners voted to locate a new jail at the Beaufort County Industrial Park, the City of Washington weighed in on that decision. First, the city determined its zoning regulations did not permit a jail at the industrial park, in which the city is part owner. The mayor and City Council let it be known they were somewhat displeased that the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners did not consult them before voting to locate the new county jail at the industrial park.

Fast forward several months to when the commissioners voted to move the proposed site for a new jail from the Beaufort County Industrial Park on the north side of the Pamlico River to the Chocowinity Industrial Park on the south side of the river. That move was questioned by some who believe a new jail, if built, should remain in Washington or as close to the city as possible.

Then the debate, led in part by commissioners Gary Brinn, Stan Deatherage and Richardson focused on the need for a new jail, whether taxpayers could afford to pay for a new jail and holding a referendum to allow voters to decide if the county should spend money on a new jail.

Two formal attempts to authorize such a referendum were defeated by 4-3 votes of the commissioners. The Beaufort County Republican Party went on record as supporting such a referendum, saying taxpayers should determine if they want to spend millions of dollars for a new jail. Some commissioners and country residents believe the existing jail, with some upgrades, can meet the county’s needs when it comes to housing inmates.

Recently, several people have appeared at commissioners’ meetings to voice their concerns regarding a new jail. Some don’t want a new jail built. Others want the county to further study the matter, using a business approach to determine if a new jail is truly needed.

During the board’s Dec. 2 meeting, a motion by Deatherage to have the entire Beaufort County Board of Commissioners publicly grade requests for qualifications the county received regarding construction of a new jail and facility to house the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office was rejected.

The request was defeated by a 4-3 vote, with commissioners Langley, Ed Booth, Robert Belcher, all Democrats, and Republican Al Klemm voting against Deatherage’s motion. Commissioners Richardson, Brinn and Deatherage voted for the motion.

During its Nov. 4 meeting, the board approved seeking qualifications from entities interested in doing architectural-design work for a new jail and sheriff’s office. It also approved seeking qualifications from entities interested in providing construction-management services regarding the building of a new jail.

The decisions do not commit the county to spending money to build a new jail, which would be located in the Chocowinity Industrial Park.







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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