Governor would name proposed correctional center

Published 8:23 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Public hearing

The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors is hosting a public hearing Thursday, Feb. 21 on transferring county-owned property to the state to build a 60-bed youth correctional center. The property is located about two miles south of Route 460 near Windsor. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Isle of Wight County Courthouse complex

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The governor of Virginia will have the final say on naming the proposed youth correctional center slated for Windsor.

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The governor’s decision is based on recommendations made by the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, according to DJJ Director Andrew Block, adding that the agency is eager to receive input and suggestions from Isle of Wight County residents.

The name of the facility was one of several concerns addressed Thursday at an Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors work session. 

Questions about the proposed facility are wide-ranging and in response, Isle of Wight officials have developed an ever-growing and changing list of frequently asked questions to be posted on the county’s website. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree had a long list of questions compiled from conversations with his constituents, such as whether or not the facility would have community input. 

Block said Bon Air has a community advisory board made up of Bon Air staff and members of the community. 

“The Board’s primary functions are to help us maintain a positive relationship with our neighboring community and to help us identify and recruit volunteers,” said Block of Bon Air, the state’s largest juvenile facility located in Chesterfield. 

The proposed juvenile correctional center in Windsor would be considerably smaller, at 60 beds, and is part of an overall transformation of the juvenile justice in Virginia. 

The push for smaller facilities closer to the homes of the youth who are sentenced there, as well as the size of the Isle of Wight property — 20 acres — would limit any future expansion of the Windsor site, said Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton. 

While there was mention of possibly expanding to 72 beds, the whole idea is to be smaller, so a large facility would defeat the purpose, said Keaton. 

With regards to the perception that the project was rushed through the General Assembly, Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said the change had to be made to the budget last year or the state would have to wait another two years, as Virginia is on a biennial budget cycle. 

There was concern that waiting another two years would negatively impact the agency’s plans for change, said Robertson. 

The project was originally set for Chesapeake in the budget, but after the City Council failed to obtain a final vote, it had to be officially changed in the state budget document to reflect the new proposed location, Isle of Wight County.  

Other concerns involved guards being armed — not allowed in Virginia — as well as the youth being turned loose in Windsor once released. 

The youth will be returned to their home communities, said Keaton. 

There was some discussion on the land being given to the state, now valued at $200,000, according to Keaton. 

In its original letter to the state indicating Isle of Wight County’s interest in the project, the land was valued at $700,000.

Upon further consideration, it seemed more appropriate to value it at $10,000 an acre as that was the sales price when the county bought the land, said Keaton. 

In the end, Isle of Wight is putting up $700,000 and the state is investing $1 million. The additional $500,000 from Isle of Wight and the $1 million from the state represent the cost of running water and sewer lines from Route 460 to the property, said Keaton. 

It’s unlikely a private business would locate at the site without some investment by Isle of Wight, such as a water and sewer line, said Keaton.

Having water and sewer at the site makes it more attractive to other businesses, he said.

County officials have indicated that there is another business interested in locating next to the juvenile facility.

When asked if the business plans to work with the correctional center in some fashion or is independent, Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice simply replied, “yes,” but did not elaborate.