Letters to The Editor – March 20th, 2019

Published 2:44 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2019

An appeal to northern IW

Editor, Smithfield Times
Northern-district IW taxpayers should ask their supervisor not to vote to give 20 acres of our land outside Windsor to the DJJ for a prison.
IW would also add $500,000 to the state’s $1 million to provide water and sewerage, but Windsor’s severely overburdened sewerage system would receive zero benefit.
DJJ director Andrew Block has said maybe 40 of the prison’s 240 jobs would go to locals. According to Don Baylor, organizer with the Virginia chapter of the National Coalition of Public Safety Officers, prison employees mostly live locally. This means an influx of newcomers will break Windsor’s sewerage — not to mention requiring more investment in things like schools, roads and police — and our cash-strapped county will have to raise taxes.
Officials paid $1.152 million for the 115-acre parcel the prison land would be cut from. Part of a $4-million splurge on mostly undevelopable wetlands with an assessed value today of half that — the Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park fiasco. Were taxpayers looking the other way?
When we don’t keep our supervisors under close supervision, they are liable to waste our money, ignore our interests and become lobbyists for the DJJ. Those three votes to raise our taxes would come from Chairman William McCarty in the Newport district, Richard Grice in Smithfield and Rudolph Jefferson in Hardy.
The state is exempt from any local ordinance. We will have no control beyond whatever conditions are stipulated in the contract deeding the land, and those won’t be worth the paper they’re written on. Would Isle of Wight sue Virginia? It’s nothing more than a gentleman’s agreement, and so far the DJJ, insisting on forcing this prison upon us, has not proven gentlemanly.
Concrete details for the design, operation and, most importantly, safety of this experimental prison are non-existent. Yet our supervisors on Thursday may give the go-ahead. Worst of all is the abuse of power. For the sake of solidarity, help check the overreach. Next time they might try it on you.
Matthew Ward

County not transparent

Editor, Smithfield Times
I would like to address the letter last week submitted by Mr. Finderson of Carrollton, as a resident of Isle of Wight who lives less than five miles from the future jail property. While I fully support our the efforts to rehabilitate and educate our youngest offenders, the proposed property, two miles from the town of Windsor, is not the place for it.
I also respect and appreciate when our local leaders keep us informed and give us facts that are accurate and not misleading. I fear that many have not done any homework to verify the “facts” that have been provided. As I talk to people in my area, however, my biggest fear is that most people are not informed at all.

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To first address the claim that there has been transparency throughout this process. Mr. Finderson claims that this issue has been written up in The Smithfield Times for over a year. True that The Smithfield Times was astute enough to pick up on some statements made in a Board meeting and then dig further into the issue. This does not mean that the Board has been transparent. In fact, it would behoove our elected leaders to ensure that the people most affected by this particular decision be thoroughly informed as soon as possible. However, these residents were informed of the new jail through their own inquiries when site surveying began two months ago.
As to the jail being a “boon” for Windsor. One of the biggest errors in the facts provided is the claim that the jail will bring 240 jobs to Windsor. The truth is that most of these jobs will be filled by people who transfer from their current positions within the Department of Corrections. Lastly, I would like to highlight a fact that recently came to light. It has publicly been stated by the Board of Supervisors that $500,000 will be spent to prepare the land being given to the state of Virginia. This past week another local newspaper published an article that stated the Isle of Wight School Board has cut the budget for the 2019/2020 school year by $500,000. Interesting.
I would highly encourage all concerned citizens of Isle of Wight to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting on March 21at 6 p.m. The meeting will be located in the Windsor Town Center.   Pamela Horswill

Rename the airport?

Editor, Smithfield Times
This coming Thursday, the Isle of Wight Citizens’ Association (IWCA) will present the following petition to our county Board of Supervisors:
“The Isle of Wight Citizens’ Association supports the renaming of the current “Franklin Municipal Airport” as the “Western Tidewater Regional Airport.” The name “Western Tidewater Regional Airport” is much more inclusive and expansive than the current name and will best represent the economic interests of the other, larger municipalities that this airport serves: the city of Suffolk and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties. This airport is not located in the city of Franklin but is entirely within the boundary of the Carrsville Election District of Isle of Wight County, Virginia.
Besides the simple fact that this airport is not even in Franklin, the name “Western Tidewater Regional Airport” publicly reflects and represents the many regional institutions that call this area home: Western Tidewater Free Clinic, Western Tidewater Community Services Board, Western Tidewater Health District, Western Tidewater Mental health Center, Western Tidewater Regional Jail, Tidewater Regional Fire Training Center at the airport as well as Western Tidewater Magazine published by the Tidewater News.
Isle of Wight County taxpayers have now paid some $25 Million to the City of Franklin in “revenue sharing” since 1986 to prevent them from annexing the revenue-producing “International Paper” property and plant. That $27M could have paid for a new Windsor High School!
I appeal to the residents of Carrsville District (and also Windsor, for that matter) to rally in favor of the name “Western Tidewater Regional” for the airport that is in their own neighborhood and within their own district. Our county may risk losing some of Carrsville District to become just another part of the City of Franklin. This “Big City” has proven itself no friend of our county through its’ decades-long “extortion” of our own hard-earned money.
Carrsville Supervisor Don Rosie must now stand and represent his own constituents to protect them, and maybe the rest of us, from becoming “city folks” rather than the proud residents of their own beloved rural county as they are now. 
Albert Burckard