Supervisors respond to detention facility critics

Published 6:55 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Ridiculous, inaccurate and inappropriate were some of the terms used by members of the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors to describe reactions from some community members about the proposed youth correctional center near Windsor.  

The Board took turns speaking out about the proposed facility Thursday during its regular meeting. 

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Chairman William McCarty said he allowed the comments because it’s important for residents to hear the Board’s reactions. 

The Board was responding to comments made at a pair of public forums held earlier this month in Windsor. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree said the perception is the county is rushing this project and its being “rammed down” people’s throats and that it’s a done deal. 

Acree said the Board should slow down and let people get their questions answered. 

At the same time, there are a lot of positives to the project, he said. 

Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson said residents were “inaccurate” and “inappropriate” in characterizing Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton as acting alone in the process of working with the state. 

The county administrator works at the direction of the Board of Supervisors, said Jefferson.

Jefferson said the pros of the project outweigh the cons, 10 to one. 

It’s a way to educate and train troubled youth and bring them back into the community, said Jefferson, adding that Windsor will benefit from the 240 jobs the facility will bring. 

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice took “personal exception” to the notion that the Board had not been transparent, particularly with regards to including the Windsor Town Council in the process.

“We did include them from day one,” he said, adding that it was “ridiculous” to think that Isle of Wight was rushing the project along.

No matter how many public meetings the Board has, people who are opposed will likely remain opposed, said Grice, citing the long-standing controversy over the Nike Park bike trail. 

Those opposed to the trail continue to feel that way despite the passage of years and a plethora of information about how and why the money was spent. 

Grice said the businesses in the intermodal park could come and go, taking tax revenue and jobs, while a state facility is there to stay. 

Other companies can also sue the county, such as International Paper, causing legal fees, but the state does not do that, he added. 

Grice said giving away land is also a way to attract businesses and has been done in the past.

Meanwhile, the county has sunk more than $300,000 to create pad-ready sites in another portion of the intermodal park that already has utilities, and there have been no offers at all, he said. 

With regards to the purchase of the land being eyed for the project, and the subsequent criticism about the amount of wetlands, Grice said a previous Board bought it, and besides, where were the Economic Development Authority members when that was happening?

Two members of the county’s EDA have been particularly vocal about their opposition to the project. 

Grice criticized those who say they do not want a correctional center in their backyards, noting that there was only one residential house that may fit that description — and it’s across the highway. 

The property being eyed is along Route 258 and is mostly surrounded by farm fields and forest. 

“I’m opposed to some of the ridiculousness for reasons against this. Not in my backyard is not a reason,” said Grice.

McCarty reiterated that the Board has been transparent and did include the Windsor Town Council in the process from the beginning. 

McCarty defended the expenditure of $500,000 to help with the cost of building water and sewer lines to the project, as none exists along that portion of Route 258 right now. 

The $500,000 allows the lines to be big enough to accommodate other users, he said. 

“Sometimes in the noise of what people may think the facts may be lost,” he said.  

 About the proposed youth correctional facility

The proposed youth correctional center is being eyed for a 139-acre parcel south of the Town of Windsor. The facility will use 20 acres and another business has expressed interest in locating on the same parcel. 

The county is providing the land, at an estimated value of about $1 million, as well as $500,000 to run water and sewer lines to the site. The state will pay the other two-thirds of the cost for the utilities, as well as the cost of building the facility. 

The water and sewer lines will be large enough to accommodate other users, such as businesses and homes. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently confirmed the location of the wetlands and uplands on the property, but there is enough property to allow for the development of the youth facility, as well as the additional business. 

The correctional facility is expected to generate 240 jobs with an average salary of $60,000 a year.

The correctional facility will be a 60-bed residential unit for male youth ages 14-20, with an average age of 17. The youth will have been convicted of felonies, but the state’s new model for the facility plans to incorporate academics, athletics, vocational training as well as counseling and medical intervention in its programming. 

The facility will be designed with the latest in security technology as well as a fence around the perimeter to ensure the safety of the surrounding community. 

Funding for the project in Isle of Wight County was included in the state budget last year.  {/mprestriction}