Wanted: educated voters

Published 6:47 pm Tuesday, September 2, 2014

JAIL TALK: Jail committee members (right) meet with representatives of jail-project contractors during a committee meeting earlier this year.

JAIL TALK: Jail committee members (right) meet with representatives of jail-project contractors during a committee meeting earlier this year.

With the general election a little more than two months away, Beaufort County voters should be familiarizing themselves with issues pertaining to Beaufort County and the candidates seeking to become elected officials so they can help address those issues.

Three seats on the seven-member Beaufort County Board of Commissioners are being contested this election cycle. With Republican Al Klemm not seeking re-election and Republican Stan Deatherage losing in the GOP primary in May, there will be a change in the board’s composition. That change could result in the current project to build a new jail coming to a halt and being tossed on the trash heap.

Klemm has sided with the three Democrats on the existing Board of Commissioners when it comes to building a new jail. Should the Republicans retain their majority on the Board of Commissioners come December when the new board takes office, it’s a safe bet one of the first actions the new board will take is to derail the jail project — or perhaps let voters decided the fate of a new jail by way of a referendum.

A new jail will cost money. Some county residents fear their property taxes will increase to help pay for the new jail, or, more specifically, a new public-safety complex at the county-owned industrial park just south of Chocowinity.

If they have not already done so, Beaufort County voters should educate themselves on the jail issue and determine which commissioner candidates best reflect their views on that matter.

Beaufort County voters also will select a new sheriff to replace Democrat Alan Jordan, who is not seeking re-election. Republican Ernie Coleman, a former member of the N.C. Highway Patrol, and Democrat Al J. Whitney face each other in the sheriff’s race. A new sheriff in town means a new approach to how the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office will be run.

Voters should find out just how the new sheriff will address crime in the county. They should find out what kind of priority the new sheriff will put on battling the county’s drug problem. Voters should find out how the candidates feel about building a new jail, how to pay for it and where it should be located. The commissioners may have to find a way to pay for a new jail, but it’s the sheriff who runs the jail.

There’s more to voting than just marking a ballot. Voters must educate themselves when it comes to the issues and candidates. That’s part of the responsibility of exercising one’s right to vote.