Jail project could be delayed again

Published 12:42 pm Monday, May 25, 2020

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COVID-19 may delay a major jail project that has suffered a series of delays since the aging facility’s door-locking system began to fail in early 2019.

“(Completion) was projected by the end of June, but it all depends upon delivery,” said Beaufort County Manager Brian Alligood.

According to Beaufort County Public Works Director Christina Smith, Montgomery Technology Systems, which has been contracted to do the work, sent out notice last month that the company could experience delays due to interruptions in the supply chain. Though MTS assured the county the company is doing everything it can to get the job completed by the end of the fiscal year, the supply chain is variable.

“They got pushed out on some of their metal door deliveries by the supplier,” Alligood said. “So, it very well may be delayed.”

The delays began when no company responded to the county’s initial RFP for the work. It was only on the second attempt that Montgomery Technology Systems responded with a bid of $798,000. Initially, the project was expected to cost $1,535,300, which includes the cost of the contract, permitting, contingency fees and $630,000 in safekeeping fees to house Beaufort County’s inmates at other facilities. However, approval for the project by North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services did not come until late December of 2019. In March, a request of another $462,210 to continue to house inmates elsewhere was approved by the Board of Commissioners, bumping the project cost up to nearly $2 million.

At the time of the last Board of Commissioners’ meeting, the county was housing 34 inmates at facilities in Craven, Cabarrus and Onslow counties, as well as at Central Prison in Raleigh. Housing one inmate costs an average of $61 per day. In March the county had paid for an average of 7,000 days of safekeeping since the Beaufort County Detention Center’s door-locking system failed, according to the county.

In December 2019, county commissioners revived a jail committee to study options to repair or replace the detention center, which is located in the basement of the county courthouse in Washington. A new public safety facility was in the works prior to the 2014 election — 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. Public opposition prompted the creation of a “Stop the Jail” group, and after the 2014 election, the new Board of Commissioners put the project aside.

Commissioner Jerry Langley has requested that a referendum be put on the next ballot allowing Beaufort County residents to decide whether to invest in a new facility, rather than continuing to invest so much money to repair the existing jail.