Jail contract awarded, questions about ultimate cost remain

Published 3:08 pm Thursday, July 18, 2019

With contract awarded, repairs to the Beaufort County Detention Center will begin late summer and wrap up in spring of 2020, if all goes according to plan, according to officials.

The contract with Montgomery Technology Systems for $772,065 was approved last week by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners. That cost includes replacement of the entire locking system in the jail, as well as all the sliders (doors). What that cost does not include is an additional $700,000 for the housing of inmates and transport to and from other detention centers to court, as well as for those who are arrested and make bond.

“The main thing is that we did try to come up with the best guestimate between (county) finance and (jail administrator) Kat Bryan and myself,” said Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Charlie Rose. “That number is right at $700,000 for six months.”

The total project comes in at $1.5 million.

In January, the decades-old locking system began to fail, and the sheriff’s office was forced to close down the D, E and F blocks. Since, the jail, which housed an average of 70 inmates per day, has only been able to house between 25 and 35 inmates. The remaining inmates have been transported to stay in other county or state Department of Corrections facilities.

“We’ve got 25 to 40 people on any given day in safekeeping,” Rose said.

While the hope is that the work can be completed in six months, some Beaufort County commissioners have concerns that it could take longer.

“You cannot go into that old jail and say exactly what’s going to happen,” said Commissioner Ed Booth, during the July 8 meeting.

If issues arise during construction and changes are needed to fulfill North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services standards, the jail would be required to meet those standards, according to Beaufort County Public Works Director Christina Smith.

“It’s like any other construction project: once you get involved in it, you’re gonna run across things that you couldn’t see before. That’s why you have a contingency, so you have the money to pay for it,” said Commissioner Gary Brinn.

The jail was built in the basement of the Beaufort County Courthouse in 1967. The facility has since been reworked to create more cell blocks and more beds to house inmates, which could be a problem in itself, according to Rose.

“Once they get started, they’ve said they can get everything done in six months, at worst nine months, unless they get into the building and find something they’ve never seen before,” Rose said. “The biggest unknown, is when they went in the mid-80s, and went from an 35-bed facility to an 85-bed facility, what curveballs will come from that.”

Rose said the plan is to keep inmates in the detention center while repairs are ongoing, but the work might force the sheriff’s office to find housing for all inmates.

“As long as they’re not using tools that are gas powered, or having to use tools that are really loud or anything that kicks up enough dust — then we’re going to have move everybody out.

If it’s not to that extent, we can still have some of the pods open,” Rose said.