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Public safety complex back on commissioners’ agenda

Commissioners are set to rehash the idea of a new public safety complex in Beaufort County at Monday’s meeting.

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners will meet at the county Administrative Offices at 5:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.

One agenda item up for discussion is a proposal to put a public safety complex referendum on the November 2020 election ballot. Board Vice Chairman Jerry Langley will initiate discussion.

The last plan for a new public safety facility, which included a new sheriff’s office and detention center, was quashed during the first Board meeting after the 2014 election, when the vote to “stop the jail” was the first order of business for commissioners Hood Richardson, Gary Brinn and then-newcomers Ron Buzzeo and Frankie Waters. Prior to that meeting, plans had been drawn, a location had been picked at the Chocowinity Industrial Park and the county had dedicated approximately $2 million to the planning phase of the project.

During the lead-up to the vote that brought the project to a halt, those in opposition to building a $22-million facility encouraged commissioners to get the consent of the voters through a public referendum.

Commissioners also will discuss a project proposed for the Cooperage Tract in Belhaven — a 40-plus-acre tract of land donated to the county in 2016. The property is located at the intersection of West Main Street and N.C. Highway 99 South.

“There has been some interest expressed by a local developer to do an RV park with marina, cabin rentals, and docks/dockage,” said Brian Alligood, Beaufort County manager.

The proposal also includes plans to dredge some parts of the land, landscape and build bulkheads. Previously, a plan to partner with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission on a larger boat ramp and expanded parking on the tract was opposed by the Belhaven Board of Aldermen.

Commissioner Hood Richardson has added an item for discussion regarding medical and operations costs of the jail. An inmate in Beaufort County’s custody recently had an “acute medical event,” according to Alligood, resulting in medical costs now exceeding $600,000. By state law, counties are required to absorb the medical costs of those in their custody, but a “stop-loss” insurance policy recently obtained by the county will offset cost of the latest bill, Alligood said. He said the District Attorney’s Office is working with the county to expedite sentencing for the inmate and transfer him into the state system.