It’s all about the details

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2019

IW begins outlining limits to land offer to state

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Restricting the juvenile correctional center to 60 beds, capping Isle of Wight’s utility contribution and a more detailed security plan emerged as some of the top priorities Thursday as the Board of Supervisors began negotiating the finer points of its deal with the Department of Juvenile Justice. 

When it comes to the name, no one wants Windsor included in it, said Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree. 

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The Board also wants to restrict the facility to youth only. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The Board approved the transfer of its property to the state in February, but still needs to work out the terms of that transfer, which includes items ranging from capping septic systems to how the property will be disposed of should the facility close in the future. 

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton went over a list of terms for the county, as well as the Department of Juvenile Justice, at the March 7 Board work session.

Residents attending the meeting were also encouraged to fill out a form concerning terms they would like to see on the table. 

One suggestion was for an audible alert in the event of an escape, according to Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson. 

The fear of an escape appears to be one of the main concerns of residents living nearby the proposed site of the juvenile center, which will house youthful male offenders, age 14-21.

However, there hasn’t been an escape at the state’s current facility in Chesterfield County, Bon Air, since the 1990s, when a high security fence was erected. 

Acree said he envisioned women in the area trying to sleep at night after the facility opens, and further suggested that the offense level of some of the first residents there be lower until staff training is complete. 

“You don’t need people in there with elevated risk while new staff is training,” said Acree.

Carrsville Supervisor Don Rosie agreed.

“Break in your staff, break in your facility with low-risk, not high-risk individuals,” said Rosie.

State officials have said that some of the youth to be housed at the facility will have committed serious offenses. 

Keaton presented some possible fencing options, courtesy of drawings from the DJJ, showing a raised earthen berm and wall along the portion of the 20-acre parcel that runs along Route 258. Another option is an inwardly curved fence, along with some solid walls. 

Keaton didn’t know the height of the various fencing options. The facility will also employ state-of-the-art security systems, said Keaton.

The Board said it wanted more clarity on how that system would work. 

So far, the state wants Isle of Wight to provide the property, contribute $500,000 for a water and sewer line along Route 258, remove all existing structures and remove the debris, perform any necessary environmental remediation, close any existing on-site septic systems and close all but one existing well for use during construction. 

The state also requests that the county restrict development next to the proposed facility and not allow certain types of businesses, such as a sawmill, livestock auction, landfill and a scrap and salvage service, among others. 

The state, in turn, agrees to limit the number of beds to 72, restrict the facility to youth only, be responsible for utility costs beyond the county’s contribution, the aesthetics and safety of the fence, a 25-foot vegetative buffer along Route 258, a reverter clause if the project is not built within three years, provisions to protect the county if the facility closes in the future, right of first refusal for the county and a reimbursement to the state if the property is converted to another state use. 

Board members were concerned that the state’s terms now called for a facility of up to 72 beds. 

Why is it now up to 72 beds, when it was originally touted as 60 beds, said Acree. 

The concept for the new juvenile facility, as presented by DJJ Executive Director Andrew Block, was for a smaller facility closer to the homes of the offenders. The smaller facility would better facilitate treatment of the youth as well as further engage the family in the process.

Block said 60 beds are all the department wants and all it has funding for. 

“At some point in the future if we had to expand — which I hope we don’t — we agree that we would never get bigger than 72 beds,” said Block in a March 8 email 

Near the end of the discussion, Acree and Rosie said they have been asked how they can participate in the negotiations if they voted against the facility. 

Acree and Rosie cast the two dissenting votes and it is residents in their districts who will live closer to the facility. However, both said that it’s better that they participate at this point by providing input based on their constituents’ concerns.  

“It’s better to be at the table, rather than to step back and let whatever happens, happen,” said Rosie. 

Proposed juvenile correctional center at a glance

The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice has proposed a 60-bed residential youth correctional center, to be located on 20 acres of Isle of Wight-owned property two miles south of the Town of Windsor on Route 258. The Board of Supervisors approved the transfer of the land to the state and is currently negotiating the terms of that transaction. A final vote on the terms is scheduled for an upcoming Board meeting. The Board plans to hold its March 21 meeting at the Windsor Town Center if those terms are ready for a vote at that time. The Windsor Town Center is located at 23361 Courthouse Highway in Windsor.  {/mprestriction}